We met at the Rix Centre after a break over August. Our Co-researchers did some independent research visiting the London Transport Museum trying out our Sensory Activities book.
Discussing Transport Museum Visit
We started our session with hearing about the visit looking at the updates on the wiki webpage updated by our co-researchers. Our Co-researchers really enjoyed their visit, they noted down some general access issues, to do with ramps and size of lifts etc. We discussed the need to focus on the sensory nature of our project. The group had picked out things that they enjoyed, such as having ago with a ticket machine that actually produced an old bus ticket, some mentioned music playing by some of the exhibits, and a handle to crank to help understand how wheels work on a bus.
We discussed the sensory activities book focussing on the Sensory Expeditions cartoon page. We had 2 new names of the book suggested by our co-researchers ‘Recipe Book or Index. Some people found the image of the camera misleading as it looked like a radio, the big nose on the smell cartoon was mistaken as Pinocchio, they asked why the cartoon had no eyes? Someone asked why there was a mouse in the picture?
After lunch we didn’t follow our planned programme, we introduced the sound boxes
and started to learn about electronics and triggering information with Squishy Circuits, we asked the group to create a trigger for a light and a buzzer by creating a circuit and breaking the circuit.
Working with Squishys
We also started to think about how we could add some sensory information to the enlightenment gallery. Everyone was given a postcard that could record a sound. We asked our co-researchers to think about what sounds, stories, tactile materials, images or even smells we could use to enhance our experiences of the chosen object from the Enlightenment Gallery, the idea is to develop some kind of sensory label rather than a text label.
Working Sound Cards
The picture below shows posit notes with ideas from the co-researchers for sensory post cards.
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.
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.
We held a very enjoyable, well attended show and tell event at Speke Hall where we presented our research so far into interactive sensory objects. Researchers discussed the sensory boxes in the Great Hall giving the public the chance to find out about our research.
Members of the public were given the chance to tryout the different interactive boxes and other sensory experiements. The Co-Reasearchers showed their sensory boxes to the public.
We also held a Squishy Circuit workshop in Speke Hall Kitchen to make cakes for afternoon tea decorated with LED’s.These pictures below show some of the public trying out the boxes.
Elle tries speaking cushion
These pictures show Elle demonstrating the strokable speaking cushion and a member of the public exploring the interactive loaf of bread.
We had alot of interesting feedback and visitors were given a biscuit designed during an earlier workshop by Co-Researchers Chris Griffiths and Terry. We commissioned 100 to be made to their design by the Liverpool Cake Fairy they disappeared quickly and were delicious.
In this video below Co-Researcher Paul Lorde is shown with his sensory box, you can hear sounds he recorded from Speke Hall and see the electronics that trigger the sounds. Paul spent the afternoon in the Great Hall showing his research to the public and he sums up the day.
This video below shows pupils from Elle’s school The Royal School for the Blind trying out the strokable cushion which triggers stories about the people that used to live in Speke Hall. We didn’t expect more than one person to use the cushionat once, really enjoying this interaction.
The video below shows Co-Researcher Patrick Cowley with Researcher Ticky Lowe demonstrating to members of the public his sensory box which gives a sensory experience of his favourte room in Speke Hall the Billiard Room. His box also shows a camera with and a flash light triggered by a proximity sensor inside the box. So when you peer in it flashes. Patrick also had placed the smell of sherry he notice on a side board in the room. The box has photographs taken by him on the outside.
Today we held our third workshop with the Access to Heritage Forum at Speke Hall.
The aim of the day was to review and reflect on the tours of the last visit. Then introduce the group to some simple electonics and hands on modelling with clay. We hoped the group would experiment and play with these materials in order to discover how switchs work, to discover something familiar could have the potential to become something different. Then the group were introduced to squishy circuits making models with conductive and insulating dough experimenting with LED’s and motors.
Derek models the squishy circuit dough
Derek tries the instant camera
Jane modelling squishy circuits
The picture below shows Derek modelling dough and getting his red LED to light up.The picture below shows Derek photographing his model.The picture below shows Jane modelling with the dough
Elle models with Squishy Circuits
Elle models insulating and conductive dough Squishy Circuits with LEDs
The pictures of Elle above and below show her modelling conductive and insulating dough and aluminium, she then added some red and green LED lights that flashed on and off.
Kyle and the rest of the Access To Heritage Group making squishy circuits
Squishy circuit model
The picture below shows Kyle exploring a motor, Elle working on her landscape Tom creating an on/off switch with dough for his model and Jane modelling with dough.This pictureToms Squishy Circuit below.
Constructing keys for an electronic piano
The last activity of the day was to construct simple keys for an electronic piano using pieces of foam and adhesive aluminium foil. Each participant created a single ‘key’ for the keyboard using a block of hard expanded foam as a base, and placing a strip of adhesive aluminium foil on the top to act as a touch pad. A wire was attached to the foil which would be plugged into the Arduino board.
Tom and Elle make their keys for the keyboard
When all of the participants had created their keys, they brought them to the front of the room and we plugged each of them into the Arduino board. This was connected to a laptop running a simple program that used the keys as input to play various electronic instruments, such as a piano, church organ, bells, oohs and aahs.
Keys and arduino
Almost everyone had a play with the piano …
Jane making music
Jane playing keys
This video shows Jane playing the keys
The video clip shows Kyle trying out the keys sounding like an organ
This clip show Elle playing the keys sounding like a piano.
Elle on Royal school for Blind Webpage
Elle attends the Royal School for the Blind and featured in the school newspage telling the school about her involvement in our Sensory Object research project.