Digital Creativity for Regional Museums: Immersive Experiences Smart Commissioning Toolkit

Lead Research Organisation: University of Glasgow
Department Name: School of Humanities

Abstract

The Digital Creativity for Regional Museums project follows on from the Within the Walls of York Gaol Project; a successful collaboration between York Museums Trust, the University of Glasgow and the University of York to design innovative immersive media installations specifically for a museums context. The project, led by a mixed team of specialists in human computer interaction, archaeology, exhibition design and digital arts, successfully developed innovative digital installations which demonstrated that the museum could be a 'go to' venue to experience experimental and emerging media forms. Approximately 70,000 people accessed installations produced by the team of whom 70% experienced VR for the first time. The success of the WWYG project and its predecessor Viking VR was possible because both projects were rooted in the local creative community. Through a series of networking and hack events associated with the project a diverse community developed which: (a) contributed to the WWYG project and (b) acted as a springboard for new projects and initiatives. Our research demonstrated that by engaging in dynamic and reflexive collaborative design the museum has the capacity to be a catalyst, incubator, and venue for regional digital creativity.

The goal of the Digital Creativity for Regional Museums project is to create an Immersive Media Smart Commissioning Toolkit which enables this practice to be replicated within other regional and local creative economies. The toolkit will be for use by museums and creative digital SMEs to support the initiation and co-production of immersive media projects. It will be designed to facilitate cross-institutional discourse and to enable non-specialists (in museums or immersive media) to participate meaningfully in the design process. The toolkit will be designed to support collaborative partners to engage in four forms of activity;

(1) Relationship building
(2) Idea Generation
(3) Sustainable Project Management
(4) Knowledge Exchange throughout the lifespan of a project.

Toolkit users will be guided through the creation and delivery of an immersive media project and will be prompted to engage in different forms of activity at different stages according to their needs and the needs of their partner(s). Users will also be provided with advice on using their project to drive the exchange of knowledge, ideas and skills within their regional creative economy.

Planned Impact

The purpose of this follow-on project is to realise significant opportunities for impact identified during the Within the Walls of York Gaol project. Specifically, this project will enable the research team to develop an Immersive Media Smart Commissioning Toolkit (described above in the 'Summary' section). The purpose of the toolkit is to equip local museums and creative sector SMEs to collaborate more effectively on the development of innovative immersive media forms. The work will impact in four main areas:

1. Museums & cultural heritage sector: This project will re-frame the museum as the natural 'go-to' institution for developing and experiencing immersive media. A skills gap in the museums sector currently prevents many local and regional museums from commissioning or participating in the design of immersive media. This project will develop a toolkit to provide guidance and inspiration to museum professionals (including curators, educators, conservators and designers) which will help them to design immersive media into their existing practice and into their organisational structures. As demonstrated in the Within the Walls of York Gaol project, museums have the potential to be catalysts, incubators, and venues for digital creativity and immersive media. The toolkit will provide the guidance, support, and inspiration necessary to help museums to realise this potential.

2. Creative SMEs: The Immersive Media Smart Commissioning Toolkit will provide SMEs from the creative industries with a framework for developing compelling immersive content for and with museums. Museums are regular commissioners of small-scale digital media projects and this toolkit will provide SMEs with the knowledge necessary to pitch ideas that are innovative and appropriate for a museums setting. The Immersive Media Smart Commissioning Toolkit will bring museums and SMEs together and act as a motor; driving regional creative economies.

3. Public audiences: During the lifespan of this project two immersive experiences will be designed with local museums (with support to implement these from the research team and Museums Development Yorkshire) and one flagship immersive experience will be designed and delivered from start to finish with an SME from the creative industries. Audiences will benefit from participating in these immersive experiences, but they will also benefit from involvement in and exposure to the design process facilitated through the Immersive Media Smart Commissioning Toolkit.

4. UK Creative and Heritage Industries: The UK is home to some of the world's premier museums at national and regional levels. It has one of the most vibrant and economically successful creative sectors globally. Our research will demonstrate that museums are ideal catalysts, incubators, and venues for emerging forms of interactive and immersive media and will provide a blueprint for media development that can be replicated and adapted across the creative and heritage sectors.

Publications

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Title Development of immersive experience for 
Description Based on the design methodology and creative outputs from the original 'Within the Walls of York Gaol' project a VR installation was designed for the Slemani Museum in Iraq in collaboration with researchers and practitioners working on the 'Archaeological Practice and Heritage Protection in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq' project (https://culturalheritageprotection.org). 
Type Of Art Artistic/Creative Exhibition 
Year Produced 2019 
Impact The installation is part of permenant exhibition in Slemani Museum in Iraq and has enabled (a) people in this region to have access to immersive media experiences (b) to engage with local cultural heritage in new ways. 
URL https://culturalheritageprotection.org/index.php/news/
 
Description The DCRM project was funded to develop a toolkit which can be used to enable regional museums without specialist digital skills to engage in the design of immersive and interactive media. The objectives of the project were as follows:

1. Create an Immersive Media Smart Commissioning Toolkit to support the collaborative development of immersive media by local/regional museums and creative industries SMEs.
2. Evaluate Immersive Media Smart Commissioning Toolkit by designing and delivering two immersive experiences with two Museum Development Yorkshire partner institutions.
3. Launch prototype Immersive Media Smart Commissioning Toolkit

All of these objectives were fulfilled during the lifespan of the project. Research findings of the project can be summarised as follows:

1) Successful design and launch of the Smart Commissioning Toolkit. As set out in the original grant application a toolkit was designed to support staff at regional museums in the design and development of interactive and immersive digital experiences. Over the course of two day-long workshops with regional museum teams the toolkit was developed and refined. The elements of the toolkit which were particularly successful were the paper based design tools (including activities to design an immersive sound installation and an augmented reality experience) and the boardgame which was designed to introduce workshop participants to the logistics of designing and delivering an immersive experience. From this were able to develop a refined toolkit which emphasised ideas generation using paper based activities. The refinement of the toolkit became possible as workshops allowed us to develop a more detailed understanding of the skills profiles of regional museums and the ways in which these skills might effectively and productively interface within potential collaborators.
2) Identification and Support for Design Skills at Regional Museums: As hypothesised in the original grant applications the regional museum partners were found to have many of the skills needed to design immersive and interactive experiences. Results of the workshops revealed high levels of insight and skill in two areas (a) the expression of narrative through immersive media (b) the design of immersive media with an awareness of the affordances of a museum setting and the demands of a museum audience.
3) Understanding collaborative models: Working with regional museums allowed us to develop an understanding of the areas in which support in the development of digital media installations is most required. While museum teams have the capacity to participate and lead the design process, there are areas in which additional support from digital SMEs/content producers is required. Our project was able to profile this skills interface and to identify new models for collaborative practice which allow more constructive and productive collaborative relationships within realistic financial constraints.
Exploitation Route The toolkit has been launched and is currently available through facilitated workshops with team members. The findings of the project relating to collaborative creative practice and new commissioning models will be published in 2020 and will be of use to researchers in the Galleries, Libraries Archives and Museums sector wishing to better understand the dynamics of collaborative creative practice at local and regional institutions. Our research findings may also be of use to funders wishing to target investment at regional and local creative economies.
Sectors Creative Economy,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

URL https://digitalheritage.arts.gla.ac.uk/index.php/projects/digital-creativity-for-regional-museums/
 
Description The DCRM project has supported the design and development of installations at Greyfriars Kirkyard in Edinburgh World Heritage Site and at Slemani Museum in Iraq via the 'Archaeological Practice and Heritage Protection in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq' project (https://culturalheritageprotection.org). Many of the impacts of the DCRM project are still emerging with many of the most significant potential impacts still at an early stage of development. These will be reported in due course but include: - Use of the toolkit has enabled two museums to develop commissions for immersive experiences which are currently under development - Proposed development of toolkit in collaboration with national heritage organisation to enable local and regional development of immersive experiences at outdoor sites.
First Year Of Impact 2019
Sector Creative Economy,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Economic

 
Description Co-Design Workshop (Tolson Museum, Huddersfield) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Staff from Kirklees Museum service attended a co-design workshop in which they used and helped to refine the design of the Smart Commissioning Toolkit. The day was broken down into three sections:

(1) Understanding Immersive Media. - This part of the day was designed to (a) support participants in developing a nuanced understanding of the state of the art in immersive media. (b) Enable critical judgements about the suitability of different forms of immersive media for different tasks. (c) understand the full range of immersive experiences including the mixed reality spectrum and the importance of non-digital forms of immersive media.
(2) Designing immersive media - This part of the workshop was designed to impart creative confidence and to allow participants to develop and test conceptually complex prototypes of immersive media. Using paper prototyping techniques participants were encouraged to think critically about different forms of immersive media.
(3) Building and sustaining collaborations - This part of thre workshop guided participants through the process of building and sustaining collaborative community of practice for the duration of a project
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Co-Design Workshop (York Museums Trust, York) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Staff from Shandy Hall, Doncaster Museums Service and York Museums Trust attended a co-design workshop in which they used and helped to refine the design of the Smart Commissioning Toolkit. The day was broken down into three sections:

(1) Understanding Immersive Media. - This part of the day was designed to (a) support participants in developing a nuanced understanding of the state of the art in immersive media. (b) Enable critical judgements about the suitability of different forms of immersive media for different tasks. (c) understand the full range of immersive experiences including the mixed reality spectrum and the importance of non-digital forms of immersive media.
(2) Designing immersive media - This part of the workshop was designed to impart creative confidence and to allow participants to develop and test conceptually complex prototypes of immersive media. Using paper prototyping techniques participants were encouraged to think critically about different forms of immersive media.
(3) Building and sustaining collaborations - This part of the workshop guided participants through the process of building and sustaining collaborative community of practice for the duration of a project
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Digital Creativity for Regional Mueums presentation at Smithsonian Digital Cultural Heritage Network showcase 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact We presented our research at the Smithsonian Digital Cultural Heritage Network showcase at the University of Glasgow. This networking event was designed to build links between the Smithsonian Institution and researchers, practitioners and companies working within Glasgow's cultural heritage and the creative industries.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019