New Trajectories in Curatorial Experience Design

Lead Research Organisation: University College London
Department Name: Institute of Archaeology

Abstract

New Trajectories in Curatorial Experience Design (NTiCED) brings together curators, designers and heritage specialists to explore innovative approaches to experiential storytelling and community engagement within the emerging experience economy. This cross-disciplinary research programme will include knowledge exchange workshops, public seminars and sector-specific guidance aimed at promoting and facilitating new forms of R&D and design work within the heritage sector. The partners for the project include large scale public institutions (the V&A and the National Trust), agile and innovative design practices (Nissen Richards, MET Studio) and service oriented commercial practices (Barker Langham). These partners represent different dimensions of the Creative Industries, bringing a range of perspectives to bear on the core research question: how can curators and other heritage professionals best engage with innovative methods of experience design to create new models of audience engagement, including truly collaborative forms of co-curation?

The research responds to a growing trend in the heritage sector for more immersive, embodied and engaging forms of interpretation and exhibition design. Such projects demand cross-disciplinary working practices, and may include writers, artists, architects, designers and film-makers working alongside curators, archivists, and conservators to produce new content and activities. These initiatives move beyond the nostalgic infotainment model of earlier heritage experiences by tackling provocative issues in surprising ways. While there has been growing interest in new approaches to exhibition design within the museum sector, less critical attention has been paid to experiences that go beyond the museum walls and engage new audiences through evocative and theatrical heritage interpretation. This project will make a significant contribution to this emerging subject area and - through the production of a new curatorial experience - provide creative inspiration for further pioneering work in this vein. Furthermore, the project will look to examine the different ways in which small and medium sized private companies can work with large scale institutions in an agile and productive way, thus contributing towards new working practices and opportunities for commercial gain. Whilst many experience-led projects require a significant investment of time and money, smaller-scale interventions can also have a major impact on the way sites and collections are perceived and used by different audiences. This research will provide a foundation for such projects moving forward.

The research programme includes extended periods of embedded 'fieldwork' with Project Partners, and will explore the development of curated heritage experiences from concept to realisation. In so doing the project seeks to address issues of working practices, skills development, the challenges of large scale bodies collaborating with agile creative practices, and the potential for experience-led projects to generate new forms of community engagement and co-curation. This experimental approach seeks to challenge the idea that innovation in immersive experiences depends on new technological advances. By understanding broader trends and future trajectories in theatrical design, co-curation and site-specific 'pop-up' interpretation, the research will provide new models of interpretation and curation for the wider heritage community. To this end, the research and associated activities will include significant opportunities for collaboration across the Creative Industries. An evaluation period is also built into the project to enable further reflection on the challenges and opportunities of experiential design. This will have a particular focus on the potential impact of such programmes on future heritage audiences.

Planned Impact

The NTiCED project has been designed with significant and wide-ranging sectoral impact at its core. This will be channelled through three main non-academic communities, encompassing research, practice, and audiences.

1. Partner Organisations: Through collaboration in both research and leadership activities the five Project Partners will benefit from this work in a number of ways. In terms of commercial Creative Economy organisations (MET, Nissen Richards, Barker Langham), the research programme will provide an opportunity to reflect on working practices and processes in experience design that may be implicit but can be enhanced through detailed investigation (including embedded collaborative research). The untapped R&D potential of such organisations is highlighted in Sir Peter Bazalgette's Review of the Creative Industries, and this project seeks to offer a new route for such work within the heritage sector. This will resonate beyond the partner organisations but be felt most keenly within these teams. In addition, by helping to co-organise some of the leadership activities associated with this project, the above companies will benefit from an enhanced research and innovation profile. The V&A Research Institute and the National Trust meanwhile will be able to advocate for new and experimental ways of working as a result of this research. Both organisations are currently paying close attention to shifts in audiences and technologies, as well as new approaches to interpretation and accessibility. This includes pioneering research and practice around immersive experiences and co-curation. The NTiCED project will help to consolidate and push forward this important work, and suggest innovative ways of responding to and promoting new forms of audience engagement.

2. Heritage Practitioners (national and international): The wider heritage sector (including curators, designers, producers, audience researchers and interpretation specialists) will benefit from the empirical and experimental nature of this research, which aims to document and push forward emerging trends in experience design. Through sector-facing 'dispatches' and podcasts, as well as more formal reporting, the NTiCED project will help to provide in-depth knowledge and insight with regards this exciting new field. The planned workshops, conference presentations, and debates will also energise the sector, promoting R&D and innovation as central to curatorial practice (and heritage more generally). As a visually engaging, thoughtfully designed publication, the final edited volume is also intended to appeal to this practice community, and will include contributions from across the sector.

3. General Publics: The research and leadership activities outlined in this proposal are expressly designed to offer new models for audience engagement, especially around the concept of co-curation and community-led R&D work. The very notion of experience design immediately foregrounds the active nature of different forms of visitation, interpretation, performance and object based learning. The development of a new proof of concept curatorial experience design project in year two aims to build on this collaborative, performative approach to audience and community engagement. This will be achieved through in-depth audience workshops which will have a lasting impact on participants in terms of skills sharing and knowledge building. More generally, audiences for the 'pop-up' experience - including young people (16-25) and those currently less engaged with heritage - will benefit from a new perspective on collections and the processes and possibilities of heritage curation.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Title Reimagining Museums for Climate Action 
Description Exhibition at Glasgow Science Centre held before and during COP26 (June - November 2021). The exhibition displayed eight concepts emerging from an international design competition exploring the future of museums in the climate change era. 
Type Of Art Artistic/Creative Exhibition 
Year Produced 2021 
Impact Estimated 120,000 visitors, including young people, families, and - as part of COP26 - policy makers from around the world. Also featured on Google Arts & Culture virtual COP26 site, therefore reaching audiences around the world. The competition itself received over 250 submissions from 48 countries. 
URL http://www.museumsforclimateaction.org
 
Description The research has shown the potential for immersive and experiential design to contribute to critical thinking and practice in heritage, particularly in relation to contested sites and monuments.
Exploitation Route The findings might inspire further research and product development bringing together critical heritage and immersive design
Sectors Creative Economy,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

URL http://www.experience-design.co.uk
 
Description Ghosts of Solid Air
Amount £80,356 (GBP)
Funding ID AH/W006146/1 
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2022 
End 07/2022
 
Description Collaboration with ANAGRAM 
Organisation We are ANAGRAM
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Collaborative research developing a new augmented reality experience responding to contested monuments and memorials. My contribution has involved shaping the research brief, co-organising workshops, analysing outcomes and developing further funding application.
Collaborator Contribution ANAGRAM have led on the creative and technical development of the project in response to my initial brief. This has involved organising creative workshops with co-producers, developing the coding, and testing the application.
Impact The collaboration is ongoing and the first prototype will be finished in March 2021. The website can be viewed here: www.ghostsofsolidair.com
Start Year 2020
 
Description Collaboration with Barker Langham 
Organisation Barker Langham
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Chaired workshops and conducted informal one-to-one interviews with Barker Langham staff on interpretation and experience design.
Collaborator Contribution Eight members of staff have contributed to three workshops on interpretation and experience design in London and Berlin. Ongoing contribution to written work.
Impact N/A
Start Year 2019
 
Description Collaboration with National Trust London Creative Programme Team 
Organisation National Trust
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Research design to help shape evaluation and planning of Corner Shop Stories project. Contribution to spirit of place workshop and creative brief.
Collaborator Contribution Contribution to meetings and workshops to shape Corner Shop Stories project.
Impact N/A
Start Year 2019
 
Description Workshops and interviews with MET Design Studio 
Organisation MET Studio
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Chaired internal workshop as part of MET Design Studio regular Creative Design team meeting. The workshop explored the process of experiential design. Carried out interview with Creative Director Peter Karn.
Collaborator Contribution Peter Karn contributed time to interview. Creative Design contributed to workshop.
Impact Podcast is forthcoming.
Start Year 2019
 
Description ANAGRAM Workshops 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Workshops and site-visits organised in collaboration with ANAGRAM to develop a new smartphone application. Key stakeholders - young people of colour from North London.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020,2021
 
Description Article in the Conversation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Article in the Conversation attracted over 10,000 views and was syndicated in several newspapers including The Independent Newspaper.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://theconversation.com/climate-crisis-how-museums-could-inspire-radical-action-142531
 
Description Becoming Hauntologists: Heritage Making in Nature-Culture Landscapes 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Talk at Royal Geographical Society annual conference, London.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description CARMAH Talk 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Invited contribution to the seminar series of the Center for Anthropological Research in Museums and Heritage, Humboldt University, Berlin
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Designing Narrative Environments for Critical Heritage 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Evening symposium on critical heritage and narrative design organised with MA in Narrative Environments course at Central Saint Martins. Speakers included Julie Howell (freelance designer), Dan Vo (V&A Ambassador) and Tamsin Silvey (Historic England)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Ghosts of Solid Air 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Website emerging from the Ghosts of Solid Air engagement activity - a series of workshops arranged with young people of colour from North London.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020,2021
URL https://ghostsofsolidair.com/
 
Description Heritage as Critical Anthropocene Method 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Talk at Art in the Anthropocene conference, Trinity College Dublin.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Reimagining Museums for Climate Action International Design Competition 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact In the lead-up to COP26, we launched an international design and ideas competition (on 18th May 2020 for International Museums Day) to reimagine museums as a radical form of climate action. The competition aimed to explore how rethinking the design, purpose and experience of museums can help society make the deep, transformative changes needed to achieve a net-zero or zero-carbon world. The competition attracted over 500 expressions of interest and 264 entries from 48 countries. Eight competition winners will developing their ideas for an exhibition to be hosted at Glasgow Science Centre ahead of and during the UN Climate Change Conference. The competition received significant media interest and myself and members of my team participated in a number of interviews relating to the competition.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www.museumsforclimateaction.org/
 
Description Rethinking Heritage: Critical-Creative Practices for Turbulent Times 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact Invited contribution to Open University Study Day for Art History course.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Singularities: Heritage and Memory Beyond Experience 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Talk at Mapping Contemporary Art in the Heritage Experience conference, Newcastle University.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Spaces of Experience: Curatorial Experiments Beyond the Immersive Economy 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Invited talk at British School at Rome as part of international symposium: Sites of Cultural Agency: Creative Knowledge Production in the Arts and Humanities.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Talk for Antiquity and Immersivity Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Invited talk for conference on Antiquity and Immersivity hosted by the University of Bristol
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021