Highlights of 2018. Farewell to an eclectic year. Hello 2019.

 

It has been an incredible year of activities and I want to thank all of my colleagues, networks, co-creatives and makers for their support. This is a snapshot of the highlights.

Arts Manager’s Lives

The year kicked off with a reflective talk for students of the MA Cultural Policy group in University College Dublin. My path has been one of exploration, ‘accidents’ i.e. I fell in to museum education and now have progressed to creative collaborations with partners outside the sector and look at what it has materialised….

Webinar for European teachers – intercultural dialogue, creativity and innovation in museums

In March I presented my first webinar on intercultural dialogue, creativity and innovation in museums for teachers based right across Europe. It was organised by the School Education Gateway EU portal for teachers. What a great way to reach so many educators, some of whom did not realise museums can provide places for a wide range of resources and inspiration for their teaching and learning.

Museums and Makers Inspiring Each Other workshop

I think this was a definite highlight for 2018 and it was a great opportunity to work with Don Undeen and TOG Hackerspace Dublin (aka Jeffrey Roe). It was the first time the museum opened its doors after 5pm to creative professionals and use digital/social media. Watch the film and see co-creation in action. It was a true inspiration to see how creativity can be a lot of fun and productive at the same time. Supported by the Making Museum project (EU Erasmus + 2017-2019).

Making Museum project in Norway (MiST, Trondheim)

IMG_1269

Our partners convened for its first meeting of 2018 with a spectacular view of the Trondheim fjord, the Coastal Heritage Museum, Rockheim Museum (museum for popular music) for a 1-day conference on Museums, Science Centres and Makers. The meeting included a site visit to the Science Centre where we visited their maker space and planetarium (if you are in the neighbourhood this is not to be missed). I presented a talk on A Creative Lab for Teens, What Museums, Science Centres, Creative Industries & Makers Can Learn from Each Other.

One-by-One Digital Literacy Lab, Brighton

I returned to a familiar topic faced by numerous museums and their audiences – digital engagement and literacy recent research project One by One and related event organised by Culture24 and the University of Leicester. The course provided me with much-needed insight and know-how when addressing how to engage with audiences when developing content. You can read more about this on my blog post

Museums & Participation Network, Access through Language, London

IMG_1805 (1)

If ever there was a time for museums to collaborate, exchange ideas and support, it is now. I flew to London and back, experienced a typical day of UK commuters with a delay thrown in for good mix. This is a voluntary support group of museum professionals based in the UK to promote and build stronger collaborations between organisations across the heritage sector and the audiences they serve. Their theme for July 2018 explored language, interpretation, access and communities. It was a well-attended, dynamic programme of events in the British Museum and provided hands-on opportunities as well as a space to discuss, exchange ideas and network. I presented on the importance of community ambassadors and the use of languages to build bridges between museums and communities.

National Geographic Biodiversity workshop, Festival of Curiosity

IMG_1980 (1)

This year truly proved that there are no limits to the work of a museum professional. The Festival of Curiosity held a one-day event on science and media Future Story  National Geographic professor of biodiversity TH Culhane joined families in my museum to create biodigestors.

Museums and Makers: Museomix Zagreb, NEMO conference & Maker Space Study visit

 

To finish off the year I co-facilitated my first Museomix in the Nikola Tesla Museum Zagreb organised by Radiona. This 3-day programme invites museums to open up their spaces to groups of selected designers, coders, gamers, makers, museum professionals, artists and more. They work in teams, interpret aspects of collections, build a prototype and present to the general public. The museum may/not decide to keep the prototype for development.

I presented what it is like to work with makers within the museum sector and the benefits of such creative collaborations at the Network of European Museums General Conference, Valletta, Malta (NEMO).
Other highlights of the year include a study visit organised by the National Youth Council of Ireland to maker spaces; an exploration of a sensory garden for visitors with dementia; launch of a multi-lingual learning resource for children and teachers with Mother Tongues Ireland ; a NEMO webinar for museum professionals about how museums and makers can collaborate through residencies; filmed a cooking demo for UN World Arabic Language Day for social media.

With all of these highlights under my belt, the most important thing is the willingness to collaborate with an open mind and the support of fantastic colleagues.

See you all in 2019.

 

 

Advertisements

Digital Literacy and Museums

This year I returned to a familiar topic faced by numerous museums and their audiences – digital engagement and literacy. What’s new? A lot as I found out at a recent research project One by One and related event organised by Culture24 and the University of Leicester.

I am a former attendee of a 5 day training course Developing Digital Content organised by Culture24 and the British Council in partnership with Brighton Museums in 2016. The course provided me with much-needed insight and know-how when addressing how to engage with audiences when developing content. As a member of the Irish Council for National Cultural Institutions, I organised a one-day training session for my peers in Ireland with Culture24 in November 2017.

What is One by One?

One by One is a national collaborative research project which aims to help UK museums of any size better define, improve, measure and embed the digital literacy of their staff and volunteers – in all roles and at all levels. The 30 month long project is divided into the following phases:

– Phase one included mapping the museum digital skills eco-system (the report is available to read here First phase report

– Phase two aims to understand the digital literacy needs of museum professionals

– Phase three will involve prototyping activities at museum

– Phase 4 involves testing activities in the partner museums

-Phase 5, the final phase of this research project, will provide a broader framework and share across the sector in the UK

Literacy Lab, Brighton Museums, June 2018

I participated in a Literacy Lab workshop in Brighton as part of Phase two. The next Labs will take place in Edinburgh and Cardiff. During the session, a number of UK-based participants from the museum sector looked at various models of digital literacy and discussed what digital literacies museum people need.

The One by One team provided a wide range of examples and models developed primarily in the third sector and by research bodies. Participants were divided into groups according to hypothetical museum professional roles: Curator, Director, Marketing and Interpretation and Learning.

We were also divided in to subgroups and asked how these models impact on three different types of museums: local authority run museums, small independent museums with a lot of volunteers and large museums with teams and departments.

Reflections

Here are my key reflections from these exercises:

  • The museum sector lacks digital confidence.
  • A lot of museums’ digital work and development is confined within digital departments.
  • Museums tend to focus on hardware and software rather than the needs of their audiences.
  • There is currently a scramble for museums to get images online but they are not necessarily asking themselves why this is valuable.
  • Digital content developed by museums should reflect their core mission. This is often overlooked when creating digital content for audiences.
  • Museums need to take the time to ask why are we doing this and what is it for?

Other key questions included:

  • Why use these frameworks?
  • Are the frameworks useful?
  • What context should they be used in? (A good understanding of the context is important.)

Why use frameworks?

category-e1435325244466

Image: Towards a national digital skills framework for Irish higher education

I used one of the frameworks in an experiment in my own organisation as a response to the training provided by Culture24 last November. This particular framework for digital literacy skills was very useful and helped ‘sell’ my proposal to my colleagues. It provided me with a concrete example of how we can invite members of our culturally diverse local communities to share their stories of the museum through social media. While the project is still in its early days, digital literacy has proven vital for both museum professionals and our audiences when developing digital content.

Where can I find examples of digital literacy models?

There are multiple models available online. These are just some of many shared at the workshop that I found interesting:

– Futurelab – the components of digital literacy https://www.nfer.ac.uk/publications/FUTL06/FUTL06casestudies.pdf

– 8 elements of digital literacy https://www.slideshare.net/dajbelshaw/the-essential-elements-of-digital-literacies-webinar

– All aboard Irish Higher Education Authority http://www.allaboardhe.ie/

What’s next?

This is a very timely and much-needed research initiative. Keep an eye out on the One by One website for further updates.

Creative learning is here and we need to embrace it now!

 

 

In April 2018 I was invited to join The Festival of Curiosity at one of their project-partner meetings Steam4U in Barcelona and attend a conference on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and maths). It was hosted by CosmoCaixa of the Caixa Foundation, a bank founded in the early 20th century. Part of its legacy is to end social exclusion (Irish banks, listen-up). They provide a range of social assistance, cultural and civic services to improve people’s quality of life. CosmoCaixa is one example of this – a science centre with a live rain forest nestled in the basement, surrounded by interactive scientific displays, and a lot of space for people to gather to catch a view of the city itself.

 

 

STEAM4U Project

The rationale of Steam4U is to promote equity in STEAM education and enhance self-efficacy for students aged 10-14 years (perception of their own capabilities) in these fields, and particularly targeting those students in disadvantaged situations in STEAM. A toolkit is due later this year to assist students and teachers measure self-efficacy in STEAM.

STEAMconf 2018 Barcelona, 4th International Education Conference

IMG_0958 (1)

Transformation of skills needed in creative learning/making, presented by Karien Vermeulen, Head of Education Programme, Waag, NL

This is the fourth conference in Barcelona – the main theme being STEAM and how to minimise gender imbalances and promote equal opportunities. Highlights for me included two workshops;

How to design and programme an intelligent robot to play games with you facilitated by Stefania Druga, Personal Robots research group, MIT Media Lab, Boston, (USA)

and

Contemporary art intersections: geometry, optical illusion and 3D space with Nettrice Gaskins, digital artist, academic, cultural critic and advocate of STEAM fields, Boston (USA).

As a professional museum educator, I realise if I was asked c. 5 years ago to attend either of these workshops, I would have balked at the idea. Why? Science, engineering, technology and maths were never my strong points in school. My formal educators encouraged me to focus on ‘female-friendly’ subjects instead. This approach still exists today in our education systems world-wide and yet with globalisation, the world is changing very rapidly. STEAM through education can equip students with these much-needed skills of

  • critical skills
  • learn by doing
  • creative collaborations
  • problem-solve in creative ways
  • fail in the process in order to try again without feeling like a failure (based on start-up ethos)

These values and skills are reflected in the Creative Museum/Making Museum project of which I am a coordinator. These same skills are vital for museum practitioners in the design and delivery of public engagement programmes. I have blogged about this in previous posts on this site.

Stefania Druga looked at how AI (artificial intelligence) is to the fore of children’s lives and education. We need to understand how children interact and learn from it. During the workshop we spent the hour working with existing programmes available on the platform. Check out these free online resources!

Nettrice Gaskins looked at contemporary art practices as in this You Tube OK Go – This Too Shall Pass, Rube Goldberg Machine. This group of artists use recycled and found objects to create something new. Nettrice encouraged us to break in to groups of maths, science, technology, engineering and arts educators, come up with a problem and use the found materials to find a solution. We had a lot of fun in throughout the process.

Presentations

 

 

Other highlights of the conference include talks by:

Marc Sibila, professor, musician and maker on Instroniks education programme, Navas, Barcelona who introduced Ryan Jenkins, Tinkering and ‘Unplanned Learning’ in the classroom, co-founder of Wonderful Idea Co, San Francisco

Stefania Druga, Kids, AI devices and Intelligent Toys, MIT Media Lab, Boston

Karien Vermeulen, Maker Access for All, Head of Programme Education, Waag for Creative Learning, Amsterdam

Nettrice Gaskins, Vernacular STEAM and its Role in Education, digital artist, academic, cultural critic and advocate of STEAM fields, Boston

Lasse Leponiemi, How to Implement K12 education practices, discover and implement with HundrED, Head of Operations and Partner at HundrED, Helsinki

Take-aways from these talks:

  • Education needs to reform – schools are changing but the world is changing faster and faster and there is a gap
  • We need smart citizens and smart cities and kids need to learn innovative skills
  • The word innovation has an image-problem for educators and we need to overcome resistance to this
  • STEAM is essential for young people and educators to develop 21st century skills
  • Education innovators and implementors need to be empowered and encouraged
  • Visionary leadership is needed
  • Revolution in innovation happens bottom-up
  • Tinkering provides an opportunity for open-ended exploration, unplanned learning, without and end goal and provides the chance for people to collaborate and create their own goals
  • Re-use spaces to provide opportunities to tinker
  • Robots do not always need to look like traditional robots, i.e. the creative process can result in multiple versions of an idea and this is okay
  • Use cardboard as a simple material – it does not always have to cost a lot to make stuff, i.e. affordable technologies
  • Why make stuff? It helps us understand the world when we make, problem solve and learn new skills
  • Maker and tinker movement allows freedom to learn

Benjamin Franklin Makerspace School, Barcelona

I happened to bump in to a local Irish maker I have worked with before; Thom Conaty taught me how to solder breadboards in 2015 and I made my first amplifier/synthesiser in his studio. Thom is a well-known maker in Irish circles and is currently maker-in-residence in a school in Barcelona. He is developing a makerspace for students to learn STEAM. You can read further and find out about this project maker spaces.

Which brings me to this conclusion – in order to develop 21st century skills, encourage creativity through STEAM and innovation, we need the space for these skills to flourish. And schools are the best place to provide incubation for this to grow – maker spaces in schools may be the best way to go.

Thanks

Special thanks to the Festival of Curiosity for providing me the opportunity to participate and attend the conference and workshops.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Making Museum – creativity is alive and kicking & House of European History Learning Resources – a review

 

The Making Museum project 2017-2019

The Creative Museum team is delighted to continue its creative endeavours with a new EU-funded project, the Making Museum. It will build on the success of the Creative Museum project (2014-2017) as well as extend and further develop training opportunities re: Museomix and Maker-in-Residence. The Making Museum project will provide a sustainable platform for the dissemination of the Toolkits through a range of activities (workshops conferences, etc.). It will offer the opportunity to share the lessons learnt and skills acquired. The first meeting took place in the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin 2-3 November 2017.

Project partners Radiona Makerspace Zagreb visited Dublin in late November 2017. Using the Creative Museum project Toolkit, Deborah Hustic, Marina Petrovic and Damir Prizmic explored the Chester Beatty Library’s collections and look at how best museums and makers can collaborate together to engage with audiences.  Supported by the Creative Museum and Making Museum projects.

The four key elements of the Creative Museum project are:

To collect and analyse: Identify, compare, analyse creative practices in Europe; to produce recommendations for museum professionals

To discover and learn: To explore ways to bridge the gap between participatory web culture and cultural institutions through peer-to-peer training programmes

To experiment: A Maker-in-Residence programme to connect makers and digital talents with museums

To evaluate and share: Be inspired by start-up approaches based on iteration and align with maker culture to share ideas and knowledge as freely as possible

Twitter @CreativeMuseum0 and website 

Project reference: EU-funded project No 2017-1-FR01-KA202-037487

Implementation: 1 September 2017 – 28 February 2019 EU flag-Erasmus+_vect_POS

 

House of European History, Brussels – check out their learning resources

There is a very insightful  learning resource created for the House of European History, Brussels by Alan Kirwan and the Education Team. These were designed prior to the opening of this new museum in May 2017. So what are they?

  • a series of activities designed for the classroom
  • they address European history as reflected in the permanent exhibitions on display
  • the topics range from migration, conflict, information technologies, human rights and identity
  • some of these were trialed at a conference The Role of National Museums in (Re) Negotiating National Identity, Chester Beatty Library in 2016, see workshop: Collective Conversations: Exploring a Kaleidoscope of Irish Identities at Irish Museums https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s62b-7s17VQ
  • the subjects are very timely and relevant to current issues in Europe and offer practical tools for teachers when working with pupils in the classroom or in the museum

Let’s take Borders and Bridges – Migration as an example.

It is in Dutch, German, French and English. The subject explores the current crisis Europe faces today: migrants swiftly moving in to Europe from the Middle East, Africa, South Asia and beyond while at the same time young Europeans are moving internationally to find employment.

The resource opens up the conversation around the language and terminology used to describe migrants and refugees and draws definitions provided by the UN as well as key learning competencies drawn up by the EU. In a way, this is a living history topic, i.e. this is happening right here, right now and we are all aware of the current migration crises in Europe. Yet, we have very few tools in the education system to address it.

This resource provides teachers and pupils questions and asks why people migrate, come to Europe or within Europe and the difficulties they face along the way. Video clips illustrate these stories. A number of classroom activities are available to promote debate, storytelling on the history of European migration, the use of language to describe migrants and refugees as well as the freedom of movement for European migrants within Europe (Bolkenstein Directive). Quotes from well-known political leaders in Europe regarding migration are included to promote discussion and debate. Collection items such as photographs and prints illustrate the historical story of migration; the role of the media past and present; audio transcripts; paraphernalia linked with migration.

This is just one example of a well thought-out series of resources that address difficult topics, require time and reflection as well as positive debate for teachers and pupils.

 

 

 

 

Adieu – the Creative Museum project

IMG_4463.JPG

The Creative Museum project, final conference, Gadagne Museums, Lyon, 5-8 July 2017, © Jenny Siung, 2017

The Creative Museum project made its final journey in the heart of Lyon, France in July. This was hosted by Gadagne Museums and entitled Building a Creative Museum Together and partnered with one of the project’s key partner Museomix.  This one-day conference, site visit and Museomix summer camp pretty much sums up the ethos of the project and reflected in a series of outputs published by the project:

The project seeks to explore and inform the connections between our cultural organisations and their communities by capitalising on the emergence of new and democratising digital technologies. The project seeks to extend the language of engagement through the medium of accessible, customisable, and personal digital experiences. It sees museums as dynamic learning environments in which staff and visitors can use accessible digital tools to explore and reason about collections in new and creative ways.

The concepts, case studies, recommendations, new initiatives and creative collaborations are captured in a series of online resources developed by the project. They are available for downloading (click on the titles below).

Analysis of Best Practices

The Creative Museum Recommendations

Toolkit for Building a Creative Museum: Connecting to Communities; Spaces for Yes and Strategies for Success

All of these were shared in some shape or form at the conference in Lyon with particular focus on the final output – the Toolkit. Lead partner Cap Sciences/Cecile Marsan introduced the project; Jo Anne Sunderland Bowe/Heritec explored research and analysis that evolved over the course of the project and are found in the Toolkit; Jenny Siung/Chester Beatty Library presented how the project has changed the way her museum has embraced makers to collaborate and co-create programmes for audiences. Both Don Undeen of Boom High Five and Samuel Bausson co-founder of Museomix, reflected on how museums have evolved over the past 10 years both in the USA and France.

Participants consisted mainly of French-based creatives, museum practitioners and members of the local Museomix community.  They were invited to break out in to smaller groups and attend 7 workshops some of which reflected the ToolkitConnecting to Communities; Spaces for Yes and Strategies for Success, as well as themes including Museums and Innovation, Museums: places of collective thought and agent for social innovation, Museums and Localities, Carte Blanche and possible spaces for Gadagne Museums.

How was this conference and workshops received? As in my last blog post, there is a demand from museum professionals and makers to bring creativity to other institutions and creatives. This project has inspired many, brought museums, makers and creatives together with incredible outcomes, creative collaborations as well as new ideas which may never have occurred if these parties worked alone. Plans are being developed to take the Creative Museum project to wider networks as there is a demand from the sectors to bring creativity to other institutions and creatives alike.

Thanks to all of our project partners, their respective networks and the new collaborators we have met along the way; Cap Sciences, Heritec, Chester Beatty LibrarySteps Europe, MiST Trondheim, Museomix, Finnish Museums Assocation, Radiona Makerspace, IBC Bologna, Jasper Visser and last but not least, Don Undeen.

Museomix Summer Camp

A highlight for me during this conference and partner meeting was a site visit to the local Museomix Summer camp. A number of prototypes were on display for both Museomix ‘campers’ and Creative Museum project partners. I was really intrigued by interactive prototypes as pictured above including

  • how to connect key components in cities;
  • 3D projection on sand;
  • an interactive panel when raised towards an overhead projector creates maps of constellations;
  • a hand-held device that can interpret e.g. Latin text of a museum object or turn pages of a book on display in a case for visitors.

These are just a few exciting and possible examples of how creative innovators use the latest digital technology to create access to museums and their potential audiences. For more details on how to join Museomix check out their website or this film below for a better idea of what they do, who they collaborate with and how to join forces of creatives and museums.

 

It has been a while….

 

 

IMG_3435

Reaching for the Stars: The Astrolabe in the Islamic World. Christopher Parkin, Museum of the History of Science, University of Oxford, workshop. Photo: Jenny Siung, 2017.

It has indeed been a while since my last blog post but for very good reasons. In February I attended a very insightful conference organised by Manchester Museum From Malacca to Manchester: Curating Islamic Collections Worldwide (22-24 February 2017). Numerous examples were presented from across the UK, Europe, the Middle East, South Asia as well as the USA. To say presenting Islamic collections in museums is complex is an understatement. This conference is the first of its kind and is part of a funded research programme by the John Ellerman Foundation in the UK and Manchester Museum.

IMG_3464

Dr Stefan Weber, keynote speech. Example of tours for refugees, Islamic Museum of Art, Berlin. Photo: Jenny Siung, 2017.

IMG_3459

Representation of Muslims in German Media, Dr Stefan Weber, keynote speech. Photo: Jenny Siung, 2017.

I work with East Asian, European and Islamic collections and have an overall sense of the cultures represented in the museum, yet to have in-depth knowledge of every artistic and cultural aspect is a challenge. This conference opened my eyes to the rich and incredible histories as well as themes reflected in Islamic collections; how they tell the story of histories and where they sit in a global context today. How can museums counteract the negative representation of Islamic culture today?  This was addressed in the keynote  Pulling the Past into the Present – Islamic Art and the Museum in Times of Migration and Extremism, Dr Stefan Weber, Director of the Museum of Islamic Art, Berlin, Germany.  He looked at how the museum is re-framing their engagement with Muslim communities in Berlin with particular focus on engaging Muslim artists with local Berliners as well as offer tours by Syrian refugees for the immediate refugee community. It has captured the imagination of many and provides a ray of hope for the displaced and traumatised. Dr Weber also looked at key components of displays in the museum and how they are viewed and understood by visitors. Many people get their information on Islam through the media e.g. death and violence often associated with Islam. With the current trend in global politics, there is a process of ‘othering’ in society to identify oneself and that of others. He questioned whether we have a certain picture i.e. orthodox or other views society has from which objects come from and it is important to understand the diversity of Islamic collections in museums.

The following presentations were excellent and provided insight to how Islamic collections have brought communities together (Birmingham Museums & University) or display for the first time the story of Hajj to UK audiences in the British Museum.

Other core themes included the representation of faith, identity, interpretation of material for exhibition, new installations worldwide, communities and outreach. I presented a case study of an interfaith learning resource Ways of Seeing II exploring world faiths in a secular manner using museum objects aimed at teachers both north and south of the border including Islamic collections. Key challenges include the context of Irish primary and post-primary schools which are predominantly Roman Catholic in ethos yet the population of Ireland has changed dramatically since 1997-2007 (Celtic Tiger) and the need for the curriculum to reflect the changing profile of our children in schools.

The Creative Museum project, Zagreb, Croatia March 2017

The Creative Museum project continues a journey of exploration and this time it landed in Zagreb, Croatia for a partner meeting headed by Radiona Maker Space hosted by the Technical Museum and conference Creative Museum A/C/T/S Zagreb 2017.

The one-day conference introduced the audience to a number of case studies developed and carried out by members of the project including a number of initiatives such as the project itself with Cecile MarsanMaker-in-Residence with Jenny Siung, Recommendations with Jo Anne Sunderland Bowe, how museums and makers can collaborate to develop programmes for audiences as well as open museums to external creatives such as Museomix.

Jasper Visser’s vlog post summarises the event and a local write-up Muze. For many this was the first time museums, galleries, libraries, municipalities, NGOs, companies, entrepreneurs, universities, schools, start-ups, independent experts, students, innovators, technologists and individuals came together to explore, engage and ponder on the benefits of creative collaborations.  Other key events included workshops provided by Radiona Maker Space, the Neanderthal Museum, Design Thinking with Don Undeen and Jasper Visser as well as Digital Publishing by Irena Krcelic.

 

What happens next? As this is the second-last event and partner meeting, we are developing our plans to take the Creative Museum project to wider networks as there is a demand from museum professionals and makers to bring creativity to other institutions and creatives. Watch this space for more updates.

Asia Europe Museum Network General Conference, National Museum, New Delhi 15-17 March 2017

To complete the circle, I attended and presented at the Asia Europe Museum Network (ASEMUS) conference in New Delhi with support from ASEF. (ASEMUS features the Creative Museum project analysis of good practice on their website). This network fosters links between Asian and European museums with Asian collections. It is an active network with numerous exhibition and educational exchanges. One key component is the bringing together of the network every two years to discuss relevant current topics. Towards a Culture of Accessibility in our Museums: Good Practices and Challenges addressed digitisation, access for visitors including those with disabilities, the use of technology in engagement with audiences, urban renewal and its impact on museums and the role of regional heritage.

I presented five examples including museum intercultural education; collaborations with teachers and schools to understand world faiths through museum collections; how museum blogs can target hard-to-reach audiences as well as specific learning groups; handling objects for visitors with impaired vision and learning disabilities and dementia-friendly tours and the Creative Museum project.

There is an insightful report of the proceedings of the conference and to summarise the thinking behind the conference, Kennie Ting, the Director of the Asian Civilisations Museum and Vice-Chair of ASEMUS described the following:

Museums need to assume a more social role, engaging with the communities; audiences have also become more sophisticated and expect to be involved in how museums operate; and the digital shift requires museums to engage online. These three dimensions would lie at the core of subsequent discussions.

This pretty much sums up the events described above!

Let there be projection mapping

December 2016 ended on an experimental, creative and beautiful note with the projection mapping installation by Maker in Residence Krisjanis Rijnieks. This residency is part of the Creative Museum project training initiative for both Makers and museums. A traditional artist in residence programme tends to allocate a space for an artist to respond to a collection and/or develop their own work while supported by an organisation. This residency, however, explored how museums and Makers can collaborate and co-create work in response to museum collections.

From the very outset, both the museum (i.e. me) and Krisjanis entered a dialogue to discuss ideas around projection mapping in the Chester Beatty Library. Why this media? I thought from the outset, it was the most straightforward digital tool for a small museum. In reality, this relatively new technology is far more sophisticated and complex than realised and yes, I learnt a lot from this 12 day residency. Krisjanis also discovered how tiny the sector is in Ireland with a limited supply of high powered projectors. It took weeks to contact suppliers and source a 20k ANSI projector in Dublin – no mean feat and not cheap. We were incredibly fortunate to source a free projector by a very kind neighbour in the area.

So what did we do and how did the process evolve? I saw a link in December 2015 highlighting the Vatican’s projection of endangered animals and thought if the Vatican can do this, why not us? A call was made for Makers in our partner countries to apply for a residency in early 2016; Helsinki, Dublin; Bordeaux, Trondheim; Zagreb and Derby.  The selection process was managed by Don Undeen of Boom High Five and Georgetown University Maker Hub. We selected Krisjanis based on his response to our call and subsequently met him in Helsinki prior to our Creative Museum project meeting and public dissemination event in June 2016. Krisjanis followed up with a visit to Dublin in July for exploratory work.

This proved very fruitful as Krisjanis developed a better understanding of the Library space, collections and decided, having spent a week in discussion with staff, as well as observe the Library’s Teen Club visit to Dublin Maker, to develop an installation in the atrium. In the lead-up to his arrival in December this original plan went through a number of changes and I quickly realised it is vital for the following to happen

  • Keep an open dialogue, i.e. communication is vital throughout the process be it Skype, phone, email or text
  • Expect the unexpected as the creative process is not linear and plans change, all the time
  • Don’t lose heart if the original plan does not stick – there is always another good plan around the corner
  • View creative collaborations as an adventure and a learning process
  • Mutual trust and understanding are both important throughout

We met in the mornings during the residency over coffee and mapped out each day. Krisjanis had access to our online image database as well as use of our Reference Library where he could develop his ideas. He also had access to staff including our Digital Curator if and when he had queries regarding the collections. Through our local networks we acquired a studio space with the Festival of Curiosity in the Chocolate Factory for Krisjanis after closing time in the Library. This provided both the Library and Krisjanis the opportunity to share insights of the residency and introduce local creatives to the Creative Museum project and projection mapping. During this residency, Krisjanis provided projection mapping workshops for teens, adults and local makers in TOG Dublin Hackerspace ; we organised a meeting with Bridge21, education through technology in Trinity College Dublin. It was important to embed a legacy of learning for both the Maker and museum.

As for the projection mapping installation? Krisjanis created an incredible piece of work using both is digital technology skills and understanding of our space and collection. And the Library? I consider this work as one of the finest I have seen in a long time and this is a first for an Irish museum to co-create an installation based on a collection.