Connecting museums & universities: The MiCLUES project

Hello, this is Katie!

Both myself and Chiara presented case studies at the recent Connected Communities research symposium. Let me share a few thoughts about my presentation.

Arts Council England funded Share Academy to distribute project grants of up to £10,000 to test out collaborative projects involving an academic, department or student cohort and a museum professional. One of these funded projects was called MiCLUES.

What was MiCLUES about?

MiCLUES stands for Musical Instrument Collection User-Driven Exploration with Smart Devices.. yes, quite long but really interesting! The project was run as a collaboration between the Royal College of Music Museum and UCL Department of Computer Science. MiCLUES ran between November 2013 and January 2015 receiving a grant from Share Academy for £7,549 to develop proof of concept for a mobile device app to widen the potential for visitor engagement.

Established in 1884 The Museum of The Royal College of Music now holds more than 1,000 musical instruments, many of unique historical significance.

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Fascinating as objects, instruments often do not have a voice in the gallery space. MiCLUES explored the potential for user driven exploration of the gallery space that included assessing audio recordings of the collections of instruments.

“The curated pathways offer a guided navigation through the mesh of museum resources, artefacts and information, grounded in the physical space of the museum itself, with the physical exhibits as landmarks on the journey” Gabriele Rossi Rognoni

Development of Content was informed by an academic’s conceptual framework of mixed-media performance trajectories, that distinguishes between canonical (author defined) pathways, participant (the actual route), and historic (or reflective) pathways. This approach is designed to integrate physical and interactive content, allowing a visitor to make a personal selection from the high density displays without being overwhelmed.

One of the points highlighted in the project evaluation was that the process of assembling material for the app encouraged the museum to individuate, organise and evaluate information that had been accumulated over the years. UCL developed an android app capable of using location information to link to appropriate content. In addition to the app UCL also built server infrastructure to support the use of the app in the gallery.

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What can we learn from this project to inform future museum university partnerships?

  • Projects need to fill the gap between the research and public engagement stages: the museum was motivated by the research aspect and UCL made efforts towards allowing public engagement in the app development.
  • Museums need to be clear about their purpose before getting into technical discussion. Possibilities are immense but resources are finite!
  • Both partners need to be open, flexible and collaborative.

What was the legacy of MiCLUES?

  • The museum has retained the app, hardware and content generated.
  • Work on the app informed a redisplay of the museum in 2014.
  • The museum is more confident in its ability to brief contractors for multimedia in the new museum (opening 2019) and has been included on the museum research committee.
  • New funding: a previous donor has committed £5,000 to help sustain MiCLUES; following the project the RCM Museum made a successful HEFCE bid and received £300,000 to develop a national database; and… £3.6m grant for museum re-development!

 

Katie

 

 

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