Time, Culture and Identity: the co-creation of historical research and co-development of visitor experience in China and the UK

Lead Research Organisation: Science Museum Group
Department Name: Science Museum Research

Abstract

Time, Culture and Identity will foster creative and commercial collaboration between cultural partners and businesses in the UK and China by exploring the history of cultural and economic exchanges between the two nations through the lens of timekeeping. Exquisite, but rarely-seen clocks from the collection of Beijing's Palace Museum will be brought to life for audiences across China and around the world via new digital experiences, co-designed by UK and Chinese creative businesses. By stimulating knowledge exchange and brokering commercial relationships between the UK and China, the project will develop methods for cross-cultural approaches to connecting audiences with their scientific heritage.

This project will explore the potential of the cultural and creative economy through two interacting strands:

* a collaborative research programme between curators and researchers at the Science Museum in London and the Palace Museum in Beijing, working with scholars at Beijing Jiaotong University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences, around a unique collection of 17th and 18th century clocks, manufactured and designed in England, but created for the Imperial court and held in China.

* a co-design approach to the digital interpretation of the clocks involving knowledge exchange between UK and Chinese creative businesses. This will be supported by audience research into the display of the clocks in three locations: Beijing, Hong Kong and London, and will bring together creative companies in both countries to explore new alliances and ways of working.

In this way, 'Time, Culture and Identity' will not only act as an exploration of the long history of cultural and economic exchanges between Britain and China but also a practical example of this in the contemporary context - stimulating knowledge transfer between the cultural partners and brokering commercial relationships between the UK and Chinese creative businesses.

But this project is also designed to exploit a larger opportunity for UK/China collaboration. In its boldest form, the outputs of 'Time, Culture and Identity' will inform a joint effort between the UK and Chinese partners to reimagine the industrial revolution through material culture; to question narratives that focus on the Western development of eighteenth and nineteenth century sciences and technology, and see this as part of a continuum that embraces the Chinese experience of industrial revolution leading to our globally interconnected society.

Whilst such themes are broad and ambitious, by focusing on a single key area - the concept of time as transmitted between the Britain and China in the 18th Century - we will be able to illuminate and test a strand of this larger thesis, and the possibilities of collaborative research, interpretation and creative trade between the UK and China in the 21st century.

Planned Impact

The beneficiaries of this research are across three diverse areas:

Creative Industries: The project will support sustainable development in China through the Ministry of Culture's creative industry development plan (2016-2020). By creating links between industry and cultural sector partners in China and the UK to co-develop prototype digital heritage experiences, we will foster skill-sharing and develop an increased understanding of how audiences engage with the heritage of science and technology. The project will develop guidelines for creative collaboration and the creation of digital heritage products in the UK and China, creating a long-term resource for members of the creative sectors in China and the UK to engage audiences through new digital products.

Museums and Cultural Heritage: The project will facilitate staff collaboration and knowledge exchange between two leading international museums - the Palace Museum in Beijing and the Science Museum in London - supporting the development of digital interpretation and collections research in both organizations. Audience research on displays staged in Beijing, London and at the Hong Kong Science Museum will improve the three museums' understanding of the needs of different audiences in different geographical and institutional contexts. The digital prototypes interpreting the Palace Museum clocks collection developed by this project will create and test platforms to enable rarely-seen scientific heritage collections to reach different international audiences.

Audiences: By co-developing digital outputs and creating guidelines for the effective interpretation of scientific heritage, the project will support the development of new experiences for rapidly-growing audiences for science and technology in China. The project's exploration of a key past example of commercial and creative collaboration between Britain and China - the clock trade in the 18th century - will create appealing digital interfaces for audiences to engage with museum collections and to explore the changing concept of time.

The project has potential to create a longer-term legacy for UK-China relations via 'soft power' relationships between cultural institutions. The outputs of Time, Culture and Identity will inform a joint effort between the UK and Chinese partners to reimagine the industrial revolution through material culture, creating future heritage outputs and supporting both governments' strategic focus on development of creative industries.

Publications

10 25 50
publication icon
Baichun Zhang (2020) Transfer of European Clock-Making Technology into China during the Seventeen and Eighteenth Centuries in Chinese Annals of History of Science and Technology

publication icon
Carol Chung (2020) Time, Culture and Identity: Exploring Horological Collections with UK-China Museum Audiences in Chinese Annals of History of Science and Technology

publication icon
Matthew Read (2020) A Conservator's Perspective on the Approach to Historical Clocks in Chinese Annals of History of Science and Technology

publication icon
Roger Smith (2020) British Clocks in Eighteenth-Century China: Presents, Tribute, or Trade? in Chinese Annals of History of Science and Technology

publication icon
Tilly Blyth (2020) Introduction: Creativity and Imagination through Time, Culture and Identity in Chinese Annals of History of Science and Technology

publication icon
Yezhuo Li (2020) On the Motions of Four Pagoda Clocks in the Forbidden City in Chinese Annals of History of Science and Technology

 
Title Digital immersive experience on 'Exploring the Country Scene Automata' 
Description As the result of TCI's research programme, the TCI partners have created a digital experience with Chinese creative company Blackbow, to develop the digital resource. The creative product 'Exploring the Country Scene Automata Digital Exhibit' is a digital heritage product which enables audiences to engage with multimedia interpretation featuring a special clock - the Country Scene Automata owned by the Palace Museum - by experiencing the awe and wonder evoked by the intricate clock mechanisms and its elaborated design. The product has currently been completed with the ambition that it would be installed as part of the forthcoming exhibition 'Zimingzhong: Clockwork Treasures from China's Forbidden City'. The digital immersive experience on the Palace Museum's 'Country Scene' clock was created with the Chinese company Blackbow. Blackbow is a growing creative business in China's New Media Art sector and this collaboration with the Science Museum has been their first time collaborating with a UK museum. The immersive digital experience will be made available to audiences through the Science Museum's 'Zimingzhong: Clockwork Treasures from China's Forbidden City' exhibition, now planned (due to COVID-19) for 2023. 
Type Of Art Artistic/Creative Exhibition 
Year Produced 2021 
Impact • Creative Industry Collaboration As the result of the 'Time, Culture and Identity: A Digital Exchange' Workshop, TCI project team formed a collaboration with a Chinese digital agency - Blackbow, who has now finished working with us to produce a digital immersive experience as a key output of TCI. Blackbow's two representatives Ms Yu Bo and Ms Liu Rui participated in the 'Time, Culture and Identity: A Digital Exchange' Workshop in October 2019, during which they presented Blackbow's work and engaged in creative discussions with other UK-China participants. They then successfully won the tender to develop the digital immersive experience with the Science Museum and the Palace Museum. • Public Engagement The digital immersive experience on 'Exploring the Country Scene Automata' is due to be displayed to the public as part of the Science Museum exhibition on 'Zimingzhong: Clockwork Treasures from China's Forbidden City'. It was due to open in April 2021 but due to the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic has had to be delayed. It is currently planned for 2023. 
 
Description TCI was designed to support inclusive economic growth in China (as ODA recipients on the DAC list), under the nominated heading of cultural programmes that build the cultural capacities of recipient countries. Fundamentally it set out to do this by employing the strength of the UK's creative and heritage sectors to collaborate with Chinese museum experts, creative economy SMEs and researchers to build capacity and confidence in public engagement, building science capital amongst Chinese citizens. TCI key findings have direct relevance to the capacity building of content development and digital interpretation for Chinese creative and digital professionals collaborating with China's booming museum sector; the cultivation of interpretation techniques for cultural heritage and research practice in conducting historical research in different national contexts; and the understanding of the interpretive needs and preferences of Chinese and British audiences. It has enabled both partners to have a deeper understanding of what is means to create significant museum and cultural experiences for audiences both physical and online.
Exploitation Route We have developed and published through the website a set of reflections and lessons learned for UK-China Collaboration in the Creative Industries, especially for collaborative work in the museums and digital heritage sectors. While the focus is on the creation of digital heritage products, we anticipate that these guidelines will also have a broad relevance for creative professionals interested in working between China and the UK on a diverse range of products and projects.
We have developed a digital immersive experience with a Chinese company, Blackbow, that will bring a Chinese understanding of Time to a broader UK public, including Chinese-British visitors and international visitors. This product is available to our partners on a non-commercial license basis.
Sectors Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

URL https://www.sciencemuseumgroup.org.uk/project/time-culture-and-identity/
 
Description TCI's findings and outputs have the following economic impact: • China's major development challenges have called for 'a move to private rather than government investment' and 'transition from relying mainly on traditional to advanced elements of production'. This project has brought together British and Chinese private SMEs into capacity-building dialogue. The ambition of this is to enable both sides to learn best practice, and Chinese digital and creative SMEs will expand their business profiles by collaborating with UK digital and creative SMEs and museums. Through hosting the 'Time, Cultural and Identity: A Digital Exchange' workshop, UK-China SMEs were invited to discuss the latest digital technologies, and coproduction design methodologies to develop digital resources and heritage experiences. The UK creative industries practitioners became more familiar with Chinese markets and approaches, whilst the Chinese creative industries practitioners became more aware of UK approaches to interpretation in a museum environment. Both UK and Chinese creative industries practitioners were invited to pitch for an tender to work with the Science Museum to create a leading digital immersive experience as part of a future exhibition at the Science Museum on 'Zimingzhong: Clockwork Treasures from China's Forbidden City', now planned (due to COVID-19) for 2023. • Key output: The Time, Culture and Identity project team (TCI) published a bilingual working reports summarising the workshop 'Time, Cultural and Identity: A Digital Exchange', which brought together UK-China SMEs to share knowledge and practice on digital interpretation in the museum industry. The bilingual report is available here: https://www.sciencemuseumgroup.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/tci-digital-workshop.pdf • Key output: The Time, Culture and Identity project team (TCI) published a bilingual report summarising the 'Reflections and lessons learned for UK-China collaboration in the Creative Industries', which reflected on collaboration for UK-China SMEs to share knowledge and practice on digital interpretation in the museum industry. The bilingual report is available here: https://www.sciencemuseumgroup.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/Time-Culture-Identity-Collaboration-guideline-A4-V6.pdf • Key output: The Time, Culture and Identity project team created a digital immersive exhibit in collaboration with Blackbow, a growing creative business in China's New Media Art sector, and with the Science Museum in London. The product showed the opportunities for UK/China collaboration in the creative industries, creating experiences for audiences that work in multiple international locations, and developing a sense of science capital in those who experience it. TCI's findings and outputs have the following societal impact: • China is opening approx. 100 museums a year, covering diverse subjects such as history, art, nature and science to folk culture. Yet many of these museums are light in terms of content and object displays. This research has, for the first time, looked at how Chinese audiences relate to scientific cultural heritage, and brought more qualitative techniques to consider audience engagement with science content to China. This has enabled us to work in collaboration to create experiences that work with museum object collections for the burgeoning Chinese middle classes. Through audience research, and practical experience of co-curation with museum professionals across the world, the project helped create meaningful "open for all" experiences for museum visitors of all genders and ethnicities, developing a strong sense of scientific and technological identity within China. • Key output: The Time, Culture and Identity project team (TCI) published a series of bilingual working reports summarising the findings of the experiences and expectations of UK-China museum audiences. This included Collaboration Guidelines for UK-China research projects, reports from both the knowledge exchange and digital workshops, and audience research to understand museum audiences in three locations: Hong Kong, Beijing and London. The bilingual report is available here: https://www.sciencemuseumgroup.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Audience-Research-Full-Report.pdf • Key output: As a result of our work with Chinese Museums, the PI (Tilly Blyth) has been recognised as a leading practitioner on museum display and has been asked to be a judge on the panel of the 2nd China International Contest of Popular Science Works (CICPSW) 2021, an award is jointly run by the China Science and Technology Museum (CSTM) and International Council of Museums-Committee for Museums and Collections of Science and Technology (ICOM-CIMUSET).
First Year Of Impact 2000
Sector Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal

 
Description Communicating Time and Culture: Championing a Global Perspective in the History of Science and Technology through Public Engagement
Amount £79,921 (GBP)
Funding ID AH/V004255/1 
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 07/2020 
End 05/2021
 
Description Academic Partner: Beijing Jiaotong University 
Organisation Beijing Jiaotong University
Country China 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution During the course of the award, the Science Museum hosted regular monthly meeting with Beijing Jiaotong University via WeChat to exchange ideas and develop the research. In addition the Science Museum co-hosted two workshops in Beijing with Beijing Jiaotong University (BJTU). These two workshops - 'Time, Culture and Identity: A Knowledge Exchange' Workshop (May 2019) and 'Time, Culture and Identity: A Digital Exchange' (October 2019) - are the key outcomes of the project's knowledge exchange with UK-China horological experts, historians, museum professionals, digital and creative professionals.
Collaborator Contribution Beijing Jiaotong University (BJTU) co-hosted two workshops with the Science Museum in Beijing. These two workshops - 'Time, Culture and Identity: A Knowledge Exchange' Workshop (May 2019) and 'Time, Culture and Identity: A Digital Exchange' (October 2019) - are the key outcomes of the project's knowledge exchange with UK-China horological experts, historians, museum professionals, digital and creative professionals. As the result of the two workshops held in Beijing, our partners Beijing Jiaotong University (BJTU) further contributed to the development of a digital resource, in which a Chinese digital agency, Blackbow, (participant to the 'Time, Culture and Identity: A Digital Exchange' Workshop) were appointed to produce a digital resource. The networks formed with project partners and participants of the two workshops paved the way for the organisation of a collection of journal publications.
Impact The networks formed with project partners and participants of the two workshops paved the way for a number of outputs: - a collection of journal publications (in development). - a digital immersive experience (in development).
Start Year 2019
 
Description Academic partner: Chinese Academy of Sciences 
Organisation Chinese Academy of Sciences
Country China 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution The Science Museum Set up regular monthly meetings via WeChat for the Institute for the History of Natural Sciences (IHNS) at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, to update on project progress and research outputs During the course of the award, the Science Museum Co-hosted two workshops in Beijing with the Institute for the History of Natural Sciences (IHNS) at the Chinese Academy of Sciences. These two workshops - 'Time, Culture and Identity: A Knowledge Exchange' Workshop (May 2019) and 'Time, Culture and Identity: A Digital Exchange' (October 2019) - are the key outcomes of the project's knowledge exchange with UK-China horological experts, historians, museum professionals, digital and creative professionals.
Collaborator Contribution Institute for the History of Natural Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences (IHNS) co-hosted two workshops with the Science Museum in Beijing. These two workshops - 'Time, Culture and Identity: A Knowledge Exchange' Workshop (May 2019) and 'Time, Culture and Identity: A Digital Exchange' (October 2019) - are the key outcomes of the project's knowledge exchange with UK-China horological experts, historians, museum professionals, digital and creative professionals. As the result of the two workshops held in Beijing, our partners Institute for the History of Natural Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences (IHNS) further contributed to the development of a digital resource, in which a Chinese digital agency, Blackbow, (participant to the 'Time, Culture and Identity: A Digital Exchange' Workshop) were appointed to produce a digital resource. The networks formed with project partners and participants of the two workshops paved the way for the organisation of a collection of journal publications.
Impact As the result of the two workshops held in Beijing, our partnership with IHNS further contributed to the development of a digital resource, in which a Chinese digital agency, Blackbow, (participant to the 'Time, Culture and Identity: A Digital Exchange' Workshop) was appointed to produce the digital resource. The networks formed with project partners and participants of the two workshops paved the way for the organisation of a collection of journal publications (in development) and the creation of an immersive experience around time and China (in development).
Start Year 2019
 
Description Collections partner: Palace Museum, Beijing 
Organisation Palace Museum, Beijing
Country China 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution During the course of the award, we have built close relationship with the Palace Museum. UK PI Tilly Blyth and UK CoI Emma Stirling-Middleton welcomed and facilitated a research visit of curators from the Palace Museum in Beijing in June 2019 at the Science Museum.
Collaborator Contribution UK CoI Emma Stirling-Middleton and audience research consultant worked closely with the Education Department at the Palace Museum to devise evaluation tools and to conduct interviews with visitors in March 2019. In May 2019, the Conservation Department at the Palace Museum facilitated a research visit to the Conservation Hospital for Dr Li Yezhuo from Beijing Jiaotong University, TCI's academic partner. TCI team are currently working with the Palace Museum in the development of a digital resource - a key output of TCI.
Impact TCI has published three bilingual working reports: The first report is an audience research report, summarising the findings of the experiences and expectations of UK-China museum audiences. The audience research was undertaken by a consultant appointed by TCI across three locations: Hong Kong, Beijing and London. The second report is a summary report of 'Time, Culture and Identity: A Knowledge Exchange' Workshop, hosted in Beijing, China on 21 and 22 May 2019. The third report is a summary report of 'Time, Culture and Identity: A Digital Exchange' Workshop, hosted in Beijing, China on 9 and 10 October 2019. Three reports are published digitally and disseminated through the project website: https://www.sciencemuseumgroup.org.uk/project/time-culture-and-identity/.
Start Year 2019
 
Description Industry partner: Blackbow 
Organisation Blackbow
Country China 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution As the result of the 'Time, Culture and Identity: A Digital Exchange' Workshop, TCI project team formed a collaboration with a Chinese digital agency - Blackbow, who is now working with us to produce a digital resource as a key output of TCI. Blackbow is a growing creative business in China's New Media Art sector and this collaboration with the Science Museum has been their first time collaborating with a UK museum. Blackbow's two representatives Ms Yu Bo and Ms Liu Rui participated in the 'Time, Culture and Identity: A Digital Exchange' Workshop in October 2019, during which they presented Blackbow's work and engaged in creative discussions with other UK-China participants.
Collaborator Contribution Blackbow's two representatives Ms Yu Bo and Ms Liu Rui participated in the 'Time, Culture and Identity: A Digital Exchange' Workshop in October 2019, during which they presented Blackbow's work and engaged in creative discussions with other UK-China participants. Blackbow is now working with us to produce a digital resource as a key output of TCI. Blackbow is a growing creative business in China's New Media Art sector and this collaboration with the Science Museum has been their first time collaborating with a UK museum.
Impact Blackbow is now working with us to produce a digital resource - an immersive digital experience around Time and China - as a key output of TCI
Start Year 2019
 
Description Project Collaborator: Hong Kong Science Museum 
Organisation Hong Kong Science Museum
Country Hong Kong 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution The TCI project team extended our existing relationship with Hong Kong Science Museum (HKSM), and requested support with audience research across London, Beijing and Hong Kong. We hosted a series of questionnaires and focus groups to audience reactions to the Chinese clocks in Hong Kong.
Collaborator Contribution The Hong Kong Science Museum (HKSM) collaborated with CoI Emma Stirling-Middleton and our consultant in conducting research in Hong Kong, enabling access to museum audiences in Hong Kong that were visiting their Chinese clocks exhibition.
Impact This collaboration forged a relationship that goes beyond the project - HKSM is currently supporting the Science Museum's forthcoming exhibition 'Zimingzhong: Clockwork Treasures from China's Forbidden City' and will loan the Science Museum interactive exhibits for interpretation purpose.
Start Year 2018
 
Description 'Time, Culture and Identity: A Digital Exchange' Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact 'Time, Culture and Identity: A Digital Exchange' Workshop, hosted in Beijing, China on 9 and 10 October 2019. The workshop has engaged digital designers, creative practitioners and museum professionals, including 11 participants from China, and 7 participants from the UK. Additionally, workshop participants visited the Chinese Science and Technology Museum and Chao Centre for Art and Technology and enjoyed a facilitated discussion and knowledge exchange with their staff. The main outcome of the workshop was to exchange knowledge and practice in digital interpretation and to work collaboratively on generating ideas and approaches for the development of a digital resource based on the Imperial clock collection. A summary report was published on TCI project website as a direct output.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.sciencemuseumgroup.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/tci-digital-workshop.pdf
 
Description 'Time, Culture and Identity: A Knowledge Exchange' Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact 'Time, Culture and Identity: A Knowledge Exchange' Workshop, hosted in Beijing, China on 21 and 22 May 2019. The workshop has engaged horologists, historians, academics and museum professionals, including 8 participants from China and Taiwan, and 5 participants from the UK. Additionally, workshop participants visited the Palace Museum's Clock and Watch Hall and enjoyed a guided tour. The main outcome of the workshop was to establish an international network of horology and museum specialists, many of whom are invited to contribute to the special issue to be published at Studies in the History of Natural Science. A summary report was published on TCI project website as a direct output.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.sciencemuseumgroup.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Knowledge-Exchange-Report.pdf
 
Description Association of Critical Heritage Studies Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Carol Chung presented 'Time, Culture and Identity: Reflections on UK-China Collaboration and Creative Engagement with Historical Horological Collections', at the Association of Critical Heritage Studies Conference on 29 August 2020.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://achs2020london.com
 
Description Beyond conference: Creative China strand 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Tilly Blyth presented at the Beyond conference: Creative China strand on the TCI project on creative industries R&D with the Palace Museum, Beijing Jiaotong University, and the Chinese Academy of Sciences on 2nd December 2020.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://beyondconference.org/creative-china
 
Description China Engagement Event 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact China PI Yao Yan-an spoke at a public engagement event - 'Science on Tap' - in May 2019, in Beijing, China. This event was hosted by UKRI China office. China PI Yao Yan-an presented TCI project and his research on geometric robots to Chinese audiences.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Science Museum Research Annual Report 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact TCI team published an article introducing the TCI project in the Science Museum Research and Public History Annual Report, 2018-2019, pp. 37-38.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www.sciencemuseumgroup.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/RPH-Annual-Report-2018-19.pdf
 
Description TCI project website 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Project website outlines the project context, aims and project updates. Key outputs i.e. reports are published on the project website.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019,2020
URL https://www.sciencemuseumgroup.org.uk/project/time-culture-and-identity
 
Description Uk-China Collaboration in the Creative Industries - Collaboration guidelines 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact TCI team published a bilingual collaboration guidelines, which outlines the lessons learned around cross cultures drawn from TCI. It included practical guideline for undertaking UK-China collaborative research
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www.sciencemuseumgroup.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/Time-Culture-Identity-Collaboration...