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Looking at objects … and my phone

In Museums on March 21, 2014 at 10:02 am

The other day I found myself alone in a museum (not that strange a thing in my line of work). I was having such a great time that I decided to share my experience with some friends and colleagues. It seemed like a good time to show people what I was looking at and explain how I was feeling about it.

I got my phone out and took some pictures of the objects and exhibition in front of me. After sending an image to a few friends via text I also tweeted it and placed it on Instagram. I emailed my parents something I thought they’d like too. Before long I had created a Vine video, updated my Facebook status, checked myself in at the museum online and sent a Snapchat of a gallery interactive exhibits to a a few mates.

Then I realised I’d spent 15 minutes looking at my phone and not at objects or displays.

There’s been quite a bit in the heritage press recently about people enjoying the genuine article – we know from visitor research the seeing the real thing, however insignificant it might look, is a big driver for learning and social outcomes. Museums are encouraged to create experiences where their visitors can engage directly with real objects, and I’m a big supporter of this. Telling stories using objects is a large part of my job, after all.

But then I suppose museums also have a role to communicate in an increasingly diverging online world, where social media can compliment our visits and experiences. So I don’t feel bad that I locked myself in to my phone for a while.

Spreading the word about great objects and displays is worthwhile. But don’t forget to keep on looking at objects.

Plymtouh History Centre aims high

In Museum [Insider], Museums on February 12, 2014 at 1:30 pm

Councillors in Plymouth believe that by investing in a new history-themed visitor attraction, they will attract new visitors and business to the city.

The council intends for Plymouth History Centre (name to be confirmed) to bring to life the city’s rich history and tell the stories of some of their legends and heroes such as Scott, Darwin and Drake.

They claim the ‘not to be missed’ attraction will open by January 2018 and will cost in the region of £21 million. And more than just historical storytelling, they hope the new initiative will attract more visitors, create local jobs and boost the city’s economy.

We see a lot of projects coming along in the museum and heritage sector with high ambitions. I was recently working on a project which had the aim of being ‘the best museum in the world’. But what are these claims worth? Is it just hot air to get funders to agree to give you a load of cash so you can build it? Perhaps I’m battle hardened by working on these projects, but I wonder if they really have the power to make good their ambitions and create something truly different and novel in a sector already saturated with ‘new’ projects.

I truly hope the people at Plymouth prove me wrong and this is one of the greatest museums we see built in the next few years. Good luck to them!

A walk down Choumert Road

In Uncategorized on January 6, 2014 at 12:10 pm

Here’s a little film I made with a friend about one road in Peckham, London.

It’s a look at some of the buildings on the street, and the history surrounding them. Looking at the world around us, especially in urban environments, is really interesting. The streets we live on have been shaped by the people who lived and worked in the same place over centuries. And searching out the clues which can tell us more about them, I think, is fun and sometimes surprising.

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