Below is the easy read programme for session seven.
Tower project Workshop SEVEN programme
We split into two groups, group A was Investigating littleBits go LARGE the video below shows some short clips of the investigation as we tried to find out how easy it was to understand the pink output devices were and if we could add something visual to aid understanding. Our UROP (Undergraduate research opportunity placement) student Kassie introduced the session, the clip shows the group trying a light sensor.
Group B began to explore further the idea of a Sensory Label exploring textures, smells and sounds.
Sensory Labels Workshop
Sensory Labels Workshop2
Tim had a go at about making his own Hieroglyphic’s inspired by the Egyptian mummy he chose. We discussed how we could use the laser cutter at the University of Reading to engrave it into wood. The picture below shows Tim’s drawing of a plane and name done in the style of Hieroglyphs.
Kate and Nic gave a hands on presentation of the Sensory Objects project to the Inclusive Museums Conference at the Autry Museum in Los Angeles. We sent a big box containing Sensory Objects developed by our Co-researchers from Reading College at MERL and also the Access to Heritage Group in Liverpool. We showed slides and videos of our current group from the Tower Project at the British Museum to explain our project conference attendees. We met people from all over the world who were interested in our project. The pictures below show some of them trying out the objects you can see Phillip and Johns scrapbooks of Sudley House Liverpool, Sians mooing boot and Rachel’s Pink grunting Pig and Nic explaining our ideas of using Squishy Circuits, littleBits and our research with littleBits go LARGE.
Inclusive Museums Presentation Sensory Objects
Sensory Objects Presenation Nic at the Inclusive Museum Conference
During the conference there were many talks and discussions often all happening at once. One of the most inspiring talks, I thought, was by Nina Simon, she wrote a book that helped give shape to our sensory objects project The Participatory Museum. Below are some images she used during her talk about Santa Cruz Museum where she is working at now. Her talk showed her ideas and experiences of making the museum a place where everyone can feel welcome and take part. She mentioned Pop Up Museums and also the idea of the museum acting as a place for people to have conversations, bringing unlikely people together, she described it as ‘bridging’ the two people bottom left of the picture are a lady who knits and a graffiti artist who meet during a workshop at the museum and really got on.
Presentation Nina Simon
During the talk Nina mentioned some of the problems of making the museum more participatory, that some people in the community accuse her of dumbing down the museum, she illustrated the problem by showing this cartoon below. You can’t please everyone, in the cartoon a character called MAH that Nina said represented her is telling Michelangelo that his painting of the Sistine Chapel is “a bit passive and that he must engage the visitor, leave room for the visitors to colour in your work with crayons or paint ball! you know…. dumb down your work!” Nina mentioned that by widening the audience to the museum you will also alienate people who enjoyed it as it was, but attendance and participation in the Santa Cruz Museum continues to rise and generate income because of her ideas of inclusion.
Nina Simon Cartoon
The video below shows Nina giving a talk which has similar content to the presentation at the Inclusive Museums Conference.
We focused this workshop on the sense of TOUCH in the morning, we had seven bags each with a collection of materials inside. We asked the Co-Researchers to feel inside the bags first and try to describe how the materials felt, some of the words the group used were rough, smooth, soft, hard, cold and warm. The picture below shows the group touching objects in the bags then using some pictures to discuss the types of materials and how they felt touch.
Seven bags with materials inside
After our Co-Researchers had described how the materials felt we asked them to place them in order of preference, the objects nearest the smiley face were their favourites the ones near the sad face our Co-Researchers least favourite material to touch. Luke chose his favourite as the milk bottle as it reminded him of breakfast, the softer materials such as the fleece and wool blanket were very popular as were the root vegetables, but the piece of sweetcorn was too cold and slimy to touch, the metal hard and cold. The picture below shows the lineup of the groups choices.
Favourite and least favourite materials to touch
Then our Co-Researchers were asked to choose one of the objects in the bags that they really liked to touch, could they find something in the museum that they associated with the object? This was quite a difficult task, the picture below shows Rachel who chose a Parsnip, Sian chose a plastic milk bottle, Guillermo chose some pop corn and Rumena who chose an egg, they are photographed holding the object next to what what they found to connect it in the MERL collection.
Materials we like to touch and things that link to them in MERL
We also asked the group to link one of the objects in the bags to a sound from the sound boxes. Rachel could remember where the sounds were on the dial! The image below shows Sian with an egg pressing the sound box to make the sound of hens, Luke he chose a potato and played the sound of a steam engine and Skye also chose the egg but continually pressed the button on the sound box so the clucking sound of the hen started to sound like barking and she pointed to the picture of the dog on the image sheet, we thought this was good observation of an accidental invention.
Adding sounds to objects
Robyn made us a great lunch again with salad, pizza, popcorn, sweet corn, bread that we sliced on the table and carrot cake. This time Robyn decided to keep the food on plates that could be passed around by the group rather than plating it up first the group were able to pass the food around to everyone.
After lunch we asked the Co-Researchers to try the littleBits electronics kit that we had used in the last workshop. We asked the group to make LED’s light up using different sensors. The image below shows the Rachel altering the pulsing of the LEDs with a small screwdriver and Skye trying out the pressure sensors from the littleBits electronics kit. Rumena and Rachel are becoming experts with the littleBits kit!
Skye uses pressure sensor
We also used a sound sensor, connected to the sound box, the picture below shows Sian and Guillermo clapping to activate the sound sensor.
Guillermo claps to activate a sound sensor linked to the sound box
Sian claps testing a sound sensor linked to the sound box
We practised using littleBits triggering the sounds from the sound box and LED’s with different sensors, then we opened some parcels, inside were various types of containers linked to farming, there were Buckets, Baskets and Boots.
These objects were inspired by the museum and the idea of a container to collect sensory information in. We wanted to experiment with objects other than plain boxes that we used last year at Speke Hall. We explained to the group that we chose these objects because they linked to the MERL collection, farming and they were all objects that could contain things. We asked the Co-Researchers what you could put in a bucket? Luke said water and Skye said eggs, she also mentioned that you could collect eggs in baskets too. Rachel had seen baskets in the museum and she linked the parsnip she chose earlier because she liked how it felt, to collecting vegetables in baskets.
Rachel links baskets to collecting vegetables such as a parsnip
Sian and Guillermo gave a practical demonstration of what goes inside a Wellie boot as they both decided to wear them. The picture below show them wearing the boots and caring the buckets and baskets.
Sian and Guillermo bootsbucketsbaskets
Luke, Guillermo, Skye, Sain and Rachel (Rumena not in pic)
Then we thought we’d try out the baskets and buckets, we asked the group to choose one of the containers and we went outside into the MERL garden to see what we could collect to put inside our buckets or baskets. The picture below shows the group outside collecting lots of autumn leaves, stones, apples etc.
inside the buckets and baskets
The picture above shows some of the objects our Co-Researchers collected in their buckets and baskets from the MERL garden, the leaves were beautiful, their reflection in the shiny buckets were great and to capture them we finished off our workshop by creating some textured rubbings from the leaves we collected see the picture below.
Leaf texture rubbings
During the last part of the workshop we introduced the idea to the group that we had made art from what we had found, outside enjoying how the materials looked in the buckets, how stones sounded when dropped in the bucket and also how interesting the leaves looked when we rubbed crayons over them to see the pattern and texture of the leaf. We also mentioned that these buckets, baskets and boots could have the potential to be containers for sensory information in the museum, we will continue to explore them in the next MERL workshop.
This was a really busy workshop our Co-Researchers impressed us with how focused and engaged they were all day.
Our Co-Researchers from Reading College met at MERL for their 3rd workshop. MERL had just held its Apple Day celebration on Sat and we were given some apples to taste, they were very delicious. The picture below shows us tasting various types of English Apples. We were joined by John from the Rix Centre standing on the left, the brown bags contain the different varieties of apples.
Group taste apples from MERL Apple day
We continued to work with the sound boxes. We gave each Co-Researcher a soundbox and asked them to choose one favourite sound that they would like to hear in MERL, we asked them to lead us to an object in the collection that was linked to the sound. Luke and Guillermo choose the horse and cart sound the picture below shows Luke standing by a cart that matched his sound. Luke really enjoyed turning a fly wheel near this exhibit.
Luke finds cart to match horse sound
The picture below shows Guillermo photographing both Rachels they have their soundboxes round their necks Rachel on the left choose the sound of chickens (and Rumena did too) this sound was quite hard to match but we found some roosters on a milk bottle and some bouncy eggs from the shop. Rachel on the right choose the sound of sheep and found this picture of sheep being sheared.
Guillermo photos Rachel and Rachel
Sian choose the sound of the steam engine the picture below shows her playing her sound infront of the engine.
Sian choose the sound of the Steam Engine
Sian also took lots of instant photos, Guillermo did too. After we listened to the sounds with the objects in the MERL collection the group rated the photos withe smilies which are documented below.
Choosing smiley pics
Guillermo choosing his favourite photos
The image below shows Rachel discussing lunch using images of the food we ate and how it is produced on the farm.
Rachel discussing lunch
After a delicious farmers lunch prepared by Robyn helped by Hannah, which included carrots, salad, bread, ham, cheese and home made apple cake with custard…YUM.. we started the second half of the workshop. Nic introduced the group to a special kind of playdough called Squishy Circuits. First we discussed how the dough was made from flour the same basic material as the bread and cake we had eaten for our lunch. We discussed that flour comes from wheat and is milled to make flour. Nic showed us the Squishy Circuit Dough there were two colours, the salt dough which acts as a conductor was green and the sugar dough which is an insulator was orange. Nic explained that if you kept the two lumps of the green dough separate then added a battery with wires going in to each lump of green dough you could create a circuit which would allow an LED to light up. He said the the LED lights have a long leg and a short leg which need to stretch into the separate lumps of green conductive dough. If the LED did not work try turning it the other way round. Everyone had a go and making the lights turn on and off and modelling with the dough.
Rumena created a Squishy Circuit wtih lots of LEDS
The picture belwo show Rachel and Guilllermo with Cathy making Squishy Circuits.
Rachel and Guillermo created Squish Circuits
After a quick break outside where we had a go at an Apple and Spoon race inspired by MERL apple day the group continued to explore ways to create circuits and learn about how they could trigger or switch something such as a sound, a light or a vibration on or off. Nic showed the group how to use littleBits and we added some content using our sound boxes. The group experimented with turning sounds on and off by various triggers, such as a pressure switch, slider, pulse switch, light sensor.
Sky explores Littlebits
Luke and Cathy explore littleBits
LittleBits Skye and Luke
Sian, Rachel and Guillermo try Littlebits
The picture below shows Guillermo following an illustration of how to connect the littlBits. Each bit joins by magnets and the kit is colour coded to make it easier to use. Our Co-Researchers soon got the hang of how to connect them. We hope it might give our Co-Researchers some ideas about triggering sensory information in different ways in the museum collection at MERL. We will be doing further experiments in future workshops.