The Somerset House opened its Hermitage Rooms to a sold out crowd last weekend with 2000 visitors checking out the six kiosks on display. The exhibit is so spectacular that a full house is predicted for weeks to come. Also in line for some virtual action, were Prince Charles and Tony Blair who took their own tour using the Hermitage Museum kiosk. The creation of the outpost at Somerset House is supported by the Hermitage State Museum in St. Petersburg, and is run by The Hermitage Development Trust (HDT) and the Courtauld Institute.
The Hermitage Museum Trust occupies seven rooms in the South Wing of the historic Somerset House. The first room, Gallery I, is an introductory room offering a brief explanation of the Hermitage, and is appropriately decorated with replica furniture and a marquetry floor built by Russian craftsman. A large plasma screen is exhibited behind the reception desk displaying a live camera link to the Winter Palace. After hours, when the kiosks have been tucked away, the room will be used for evening entertainment. The remaining rooms comprise four exhibition galleries, a Library complete with books about The Hermitage and other Russian reference books, and a Director’s office.
IBM is providing the Hermitage Development Trust, London with a total of eight workstations (six of them kiosks) supported by a server proxy installation. This provides visitors with use of the IBM Hermitage kiosk software and access to the website for the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg.
The kiosks are part of a project launched by IBM’s Corporate Community Relations with the State Hermitage Museum in June 1997.The technology that makes these marvelous kiosks possible is known as JAKI (JAva KIosk). JAKI is a unique Java development tool created at the IBM Haifa Research Lab and is being used to build sophisticated information kiosks.
Noga Meshulam, a researcher key to the project at IBM Haifa reflects, "The greatest challenge in this project was to combine the great beauty of the art displayed in the Hermitage Museum exhibition with a modern technological information kiosk." The result is an elegant synthesis of art and technology.
JAKI was developed by the Solutions Technology group at the IBM Haifa Research Lab, managed by Haim Nelken. The Solutions Technology group focuses on providing customers with direct access to an organization's information and data via Kiosks, Internet, and Tier-0 devices. For more information on Java Information Kiosks, see: http://www.haifa.il.ibm.com/projects/software/jaki/ .
The following team members have been involved with the JAKI and Hermitage projects over the years:
Amnon Ribak, project leader; Simona Cohen, JAKI developer; Gil Shapir, website data; Noga Meshulam, kiosk developer; Vladimir Shcherbina, kiosk developer; Hagay Krupnik, embedded view and zoom gallery in the website; Zohar Sivan, embedded view and zoom gallery in the website (and Dror Zonshine and Leonid Dubinsky).