Digital Creativity for Regional Museums: Immersive Experiences Smart Commissioning Toolkit

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


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.


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