somerset house, v1

Our First Donation!

Today we had a visit from Dr. James Lattin of The Museum of Imaginative Knowledge. He brought a gift with him, which he donated to The Small Museum. It’s another Museum in a Box, and it’s fantastic.

File 30-03-2015 17 54 40

File 30-03-2015 18 24 50

You’ll notice that the original piece of toast found in the bath at Judley Hall has been removed for conservation and research.

File 30-03-2015 18 24 32

Thank you, James!

Standard
somersethouse, v1

Small Museum for Smalls

I came to The Small Museum as a visitor today, along with a couple of little visitors.

Henry checked out the not so colossal foot. We tried to fit it in some size 5s but sadly it didn’t fit!

Arthur put the objects in height order…he remembered what George had said about Nandi Bull being bigger than a tree so guessed him the biggest.

IMAG5580

Felix had them enthralled with his sensor which made a picture of the foot get bigger and smaller on the screen…

IMAG5571

And, like everyone else, they signed the visitors book.

IMAG5584

Thanks for making us so welcome!

Standard
somerset house, v1

Day 9: Accessibility, Our First Pup Visit and a Guessing Game

It was excellent to have a visit from Kirin, Ros, Matthew, Toby and his dog, Willow this morning. They came to us from VocalEyes, a nationwide audio description charity, providing access to the arts for blind and partially sighted people. We were really curious to hear their impressions on the idea of Museum in a Box.

IMG_20150330_103639 IMG_20150330_105736

Here’s our first canine visitor, Willow, with her human, Toby.

File 30-03-2015 13 23 58 File 30-03-2015 13 23 39

Sighted people make so many assumptions about how things are perceived in the world. Ros, who is a describer-of-things (including all the audio descriptions of things you can hear at the British Museum), helped Kirin to understand what was in the room, and talked through the main installation in the centre of the room, and then our wall of other projects we’d done each day. It was interesting that she read the papers from the top down — perfectly natural — but the papers were oriented from the bottom up, because of the museum/table surface’s orientation in the room. It was lovely to witness how Kirin processed inputs by touch as well.

We noticed lots of things! It was particularly interesting to hear from Kirin about what was a bit confusing and how we could fix it.

  • Scale of items in the box should be accurate in relation to each other, and perhaps we should also have a specific object that is designed to be used for scale reference.
  • We could be specific about what the bottom of each object is, and which side is the front, so each can be oriented correctly. A face is a recognizable set of features, but it takes a while to parse what’s being touched of the stranger objects (like the House post or a Rosetta Stone).
  • It might be useful to have the design of the box itself represent the institution the objects come from, so to have it be in the shape of the floor plan, and have the objects generally placed in their correct spots. This observation opened up a nice possible game in a museum, if you have an object before you visit, you could go on a treasure hunt once you get there to try to find it.
  • It’s a big deal for some sight-impaired people to actually visit on-site. There’s so much to take in and process it can be really overwhelming. That’s a big part of what VocalEyes does, to help prepare for a visit by describing in detail what to expect. We thought that the Museum in a Box could be a good way to help people prepare to .
  • The box should contain an index. Whether it’s printed or audio or another format, it’s really important to be able to know easily what you’re dealing with.
  • The work we did on Day 5 with Adrian and Frankie seemed to really strike a chord. (That chord was struck with me, too, on the day!) It’s hugely helpful to hear information, and other audio mood-setting stuff too, like our waves crashing and museum hubbub form Day 2.

We’re looking forward to continuing to work with the VocalEyes team as we move forward with Museum in a Box. It is indeed the case that any design work we do to make our project accessible to sight-impaired people will also mean it’s more accessible for everyone.

Harriet is bringing her kids in this afternoon, so Tom, Felix and I are working on a guessing game.

File 30-03-2015 13 22 27

File 30-03-2015 13 23 08 File 30-03-2015 13 21 55

Standard
somerset house, v1

Day 8: Conversation and Gesture

It’s been a day of fantastic visitors and conversations. We opened a bit late, and after the archiving and renewal, it took us a while to choose our object of focus. We ended up settling on Tara, and drawing on a theme Harriet found about her lovely hand gestures. We’re still making the display. We also just brought in a cheeky bottle of prosecco to keep us and our guests going.










I blame Friday. And prosecco. But actually, the conversations we’re having here are illuminating and extremely useful, so we’re OK with having a slow day on the brown paper.

Standard
somerset house, v1

Day 7: Playing with Scale

It’s a bit odd having a set of 3D prints of objects whose printed sizes don’t scale with reality. I mean where the biggest 3D prints aren’t the biggest actual objects. In fact, our House post is actually the tallest thing in reality, but it’s almost the smallest print. I’d also thought from the beginning that it would just be funny to print the Colossal Foot double the size of everything else just because it was called colossal. Turns out it’s the shortest thing in reality.

That led us to thinking about scale today, as our object of focus was the foot.

Tom found a fantastic augmented reality app called Augment, which I loaded on to my iPad. Online, you can configure a “tracker” image that your iPad will recognize easily and connect it with a 3D model. You can also specify the 3D model’s actual dimensions, so that’s what we did with the Colossal Foot, and now, at the eleventh hour, we’re popping in the House post, which is 2.5 metres tall.

Here’s the (garish) tracker image being found…

File 26-03-2015 16 02 11

And some screenshots of what turns up…

File 26-03-2015 15 55 25 File 26-03-2015 15 57 19 File 26-03-2015 16 00 34

And a funny video of Tom and I getting stuff running for the first time. What a pair of giggling dummies!

In the end, it was quite a simple and visceral experience, a really nice way to get a feel for the size of the thing if you weren’t able to visit the museum.

Standard
somerset house, v1

Day 7: Colossal feet

We’ve discovered there are lots of colossal feet in the British Museum collection. Mac and I were wondering why people collected these colossal feet, rather than other parts of the body. Is it that they are instantly recognisable? More interesting to look it? The touch point?

Eighteenth-century collectors would collect limbs as curiosities. One of the most famous sets is the Colossus of Emperor Constantine at the Palazzo dei Conservatori (Capitoline Museum) in Rome. There’s a colossal head, right hand, and foot of a seated statue.

By user:Lalupa (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By user:Lalupa (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Felix was reminded of Cassius’s speech in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar (Act 1, Scene 2), describing Caesar’s tyrannical nature

Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world
Like a Colossus, and we petty men
Walk under his huge legs and peep about
To find ourselves dishonorable graves.

 

And while we’re on the subject of colossus, we shouldn’t forget to mention the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

Maarten van Heemskerck [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Maarten van Heemskerck [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Standard
somerset house, v1

Day 7: and so it begins

I must admit to a slight fatigue at this point. But, along with that comes real and new enjoyment at the challenge of finding and illustrating a new story or thing each day.

Yesterday, as Harriet and I were chatting to a couple of visitors all the way from Suffolk, it dawned on me just how much our actual output has been governed by both the semi-random set of objects we selected to print, and the shape of the room and tables. The whole short practice has sprung from those two things. It’s interesting too, to note that the explorations themselves have gravitated towards the history of the British Museum’s collection itself, and not especially features of the objects. That’s a growing area of personal research interest on my part; how big museums have come to be, and the characters who formed them. Henry Salt, from Day 6, exemplifies the kinds of slightly shadow-y figures behind these incredible collections.

Bye bye, Henry Salt.

   

Hello, Colossal Foot.

Standard
somersethouse, v1

Day 6: Henry Salt

Today I found out that a whopping 1,659 objects in the British Museum collection were bought from Henry Salt. A good few more were ‘donated by’, ‘from’ and ‘purchased through’ him, so the true figure is probably over 1,700.

Today we were investigating the Goddess Hathor. She originally sat as part of the Temple of Amenhotep III but when that was ruined in an earthquake she moved to the Temple of Merenptah (a mere 8 minutes walk away, according to Google Maps!)

She was excavated (probably between 1824 and 1827) by Giovanni Battista Belzoni, who was working for Salt. And she was auctioned at Sothebys and bought by the British Museum in 1835.

Henry Salt (1780 – 1827) seems to have been a key figure for the British Museum’s Egyptian collection.

He became British Consul-General for Egypt in 1815. He sponsored excavations, carried out his own excavations and wrote on deciphering hieroglyphs.

Through his two agents (Belzoni and D’Athanasi) he built up his ‘First Collection’ within two years of arriving in Egypt. It was offered to the British Museum in 1818, it looks like the terms were finally agreed (£2,000) in 1821 or even 1823 as those dates crop up a lot.

His ‘Second Collection’ of over four thousand objects (collected 1819-1824) were sold to Charles X of France for £10,000.

His ‘Third Collection’ were auctioned off at Sotherby’s in 1835 (after his death). There were 1,083 objects on offer and the British Museum bought many of these. Hathor was one of them.

The Museum’s Egyptian galleries would look wholly different without the objects bought from Salt.

He was responsible for the paintings from the Tomb of Nebamun (around 1350BC)

Some of the massive Egyptian sculptures that dominate Gallery 4.

And some of the most popular mummies, including three of the animals.

I didn’t go for a pun in the title, but can’t resist…there’s no denying, he was a real Salt Seller.

Standard
somerset house, v1

Day 6: Highlight Reel

We started by hanging Day 5, our RFID & Rosetta Stone craziness. We added a bunch of photos and wires and stuff to the hanging to try to give more of a sense of how it worked. (Day 5 is on the far left, Day 1 on the far right.)

Day 5 hung

It’s #museumweek this week too, and while we’re not directly participating (which is possibly an error), we were thinking we could align to today’s theme of architecture, so drew the House Post and Goddess Hathor out of the collection. After some research and thinking about potential storylines, we decided to continue the theme about how these objects came to be at the British Museum. Goddess Hathor was acquired in 1835 from Thebes, and brought to London.

Day 6 Object of Focus

We settled on the character of Henry Salt, who sold a great number of Egyptian antiquities to the Museum in the early part of the 19th Century, including this Hathor figure. He was also British Consul-General to Egypt. Harriet will follow up with a few of the facts we uncovered about him.

Henry Salt sold 1,659 things to the British Museum.

During our afternoon research, I discovered this fabulous book called The General Contents of the British Museum, published in 1762. It’s a rollicking blow-by-blow narrative walkthrough of the collection at that time.

We gathered about 115 images of objects that the British Museum purchased from Henry Salt, that’s less than 10% of the total, and arranged them on today’s museum.

Untitled

As we finish up for the day, I note our handy visitor tally too, and that two of our guests today have chosen the Colossal Foot for our work tomorrow.

Untitled

Standard
somerset house, v1

Day 6: A Handy-Book of The British Museum

They don’t write ’em like they used to.

The British Museum is filled to overflowing with almost countless “specimens,” or examples of WORK. The work is that of NATURE and that of MAN; but since man must always work only on the material that Nature gives him, the rudest flint that bears his mark upon it in its sharpened edge is counted as his work.

Standard