The Challenge: Developing a sustainable system for digital experiences

Te Papa began developing Te Papahiko in 2017 to improve the creation and maintenance of their “core” digital products. It would also enable easy deployment into the museum’s exhibitions and public spaces. 

We were asked by Te Papa to assist with developing Te Papahiko’s core components, and support their internal team to deliver a number of digital experiences. To guide them through this process, we drew from over 20 years of working with the GLAM (galleries, libraries, archives, and museums) sector.

Our Approach: Building a flexible platform for GLAM

Te Papahiko is built on well-known open-source web technologies including Docker, Electron, Nodel, HTML5, CSS, and JavaScript. 

It provides live data, audience insights, and the ability for the Te Papa team to continually improve and update experiences.

Reducing development time with common components

Te Papahiko experiences are created using a project starter kit and a custom component suite – both based on React and Redux. Building on Te Papa’s Digital Language System, it provides development teams with common components used within digital experiences. 

The starter kit and component suite ensures a consistent interface and experience across different projects, dramatically reducing development time.

Deploying builds effortlessly with automated pipelines

Te Papa deploy and manage Te Papahiko experiences through a sophisticated pipeline. An automated ‘continuous integration’ system builds and packages a project, then deploys it to the hardware on the museum floor. Before being pushed out, producers can quickly preview builds through a simple administration UI. 

This system allows the Te Papa team to deploy updates remotely rather than needing to physically connect to exhibit hardware ‘after hours’. 

Providing a great baseline experience with a multi-platform player

An Electron-based, cross-platform player for Te Papahiko is available on Windows, Mac, and Linux devices. The player not only runs the experience, but provides many important behind-the-scenes features such as live analytics, monitoring, and maintenance. 

This ensures a functionality baseline for all Te Papahiko experiences, removing the need for development teams to painstakingly build these features into every project.

It was a rewarding feeling to see something that you’ve built running on Te Papa’s museum floor. Being able to hit a button and watch the screen refresh with new code – absolute bliss.

Jesse Hills

Developer, Springload

The results: Powering award-winning digital experiences

Te Papahiko empowers Te Papa’s curators and other content creators to develop accessible, inspiring, and captivating digital experiences more efficiently. It helps their audience learn in new ways, while enabling Te Papa to iterate and respond to change. 

At the 2018 National Digital Forum (NDF), Te Papa won the Digital exhibition or collection award for Toi Art, which includes interactive touch tables built on Te Papahiko. The NDF board recognised the portrait wall tables as “a masterpiece of engaging, accessible digital experience, enhancing not competing with the real art works”.