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How the new National Anzac Centre is pushing the envelope in the digital arena

The Anzac troops that bravely marched into battle through unsurmountable odds and unsavoury conditions is a story close to every Australian and New Zealander’s heart. Their story is now depicted forever at the newly opened National Anzac Centre powered by a unique digital presence.

Working closely with Western Australia (WA) Museum, we built the website component of the National Anzac Centre, following one of 32 characters through their war time journey, from enlistment, to various battle conflicts, and if they made it, post-war life.

The brief

The National Anzac Centre is an experience, both offline and online. The brief, although strict was simple: to emulate the Centre’s immersive experience. This meant enabling users who can’t make it to the centre to still be able to indulge in the rich content, but also provide crucial information to physical visitors, like opening times and access.

Meet the personas

Precedent have multiple management systems in their repertoire, from the more fully fledged enterprise level Sitecore, to the open source and community focused Drupal. Given the open nature of the website, alongside the government’s push to use more open source solutions, Drupal 7 was a fantastic fit and one we love developing in.
With any website we undertake, we endeavour to ensure the website meets the audience needs first, whilst still answering the business needs of stakeholders. What this means for us and WA Museum is a session with our talented consultants that informs key personas and journeys. This then acts as an invaluable foundation for how the website will be designed and built. 

How does this help?

Let us explain a little; meet Monty.

Monty, a charming grandparent in his 50s has a family that served in WW1. He is a fact based chap, and while charming, has the desire to inform factual based opinions and speak with authority on subjects he is passionate about.

How about Susan? Let’s meet Susan.

Susan, a year 9 teacher in her 30s is unfamiliar with WW1. Susan wants to immerse herself in the stories of WW1 characters, so she is able to humanise the conflict and then discover how this fits in with her curriculum requirements. This will help Susan pass on the information correctly and factually to her students, who as yet, don’t quite fully comprehend the implications and repercussions of war.

Here we have 2 personas, while fictitious, accurately represent 2 of the 5 key audiences that were identified, and people’s needs and desires that we have a commitment to meeting through the medium of the internet.

A true partnership between online and offline

Drupal provided an excellent platform to build from, and its open source background allowed us to build probably the most crucial part to the whole success of the National Anzac Centre, both online and offline; a simple API, a means for websites and software alike to talk to each other, think of it as a special language and means of communication between computers. While it may seem small and slightly meaningless, through the use of the API the website brings the National Anzac Centre installations to life as the interactive screens throughout the centre are all powered by information stored within Drupal.

With around 50 pieces of unique information to store against each of the 32 characters, the technical aspect was mind blowing enough, let alone the super-human effort involved in entering in the content on time. Through a combination of clever development, understanding clients and a superb CMS to build from, the development was undertaken in around four months, going through various release cycles and testing through our dedicated testing team.

Drupal enabled us to utilise a wide variety of existing modules to push the development along, most crucially the RestWS module. A fantastic module that creates an easy to use REST API from existing pieces of information, otherwise known as entities. Coupled with some custom modules, clever feature packages to manage deployments and fantastic theme development, the website is a fantastic show case for what Drupal is capable of.

Using a combination of different node types, various taxonomies and intelligent use of reference fields for both entities and taxonomy, we created a website that not only makes information storage easy, but also content discovery and immersion a walk in the park.

To bring this all into context slightly, without the website, the screens within the centre itself where users have the ability to immerse themselves in content and information, would go dark.

A true partnership between offline and online, the website enables the centre to remotely manage the information and contributions by members of the public from anywhere in the world, and also enables anyone in the world to contribute to content within the centre by adding their story to any of the 32 characters.

Using Drupal to power the centre is further pushing the envelope of how museums and digital installations can consider the web as a serious contributor into the cultural sector, through easy artefact management, high user engagement and greatly reduce management costs. Think of the ease in fixing a spelling mistake within the curated content from your office, no onsite visit required.

A lasting impact

A truly unique piece of engineering, with organisations from both Australia, New Zealand and further afield coming together to present an award winning centre that will forever cement in history the true story behind the Anzacs. An online presence has been created that allows everyone to be part of a website that is more than just a website, a place on the internet to be proud of, and a National Anzac Centre to cherish for decades to come.