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Day 5: Video documentation

Amidst the wires and brains and things, we ended up making two main things yesterday. First, a way for the Museum in a Box to recognise the objects in it, in a very simple form. We stuck RFID stickers on each object, and attached a .WAV file to each tag, and then wrote a little magic dust to play the .WAV for each object. (You can hear the dulcet tones of volunteer helper and archivist to the stars, Geoff Browell, describing Hathor and the Colossal Foot.) You can see what it was like here:

Secondly, we took the Rosetta Stone as our object of focus, and worked on making it a physical trigger to hear the text on the actual stone in three slightly more modern languages: English, Greek and Arabic. Voila:

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Day 5: Panorama

Yesterday we had lots of helpful visitors, which was lovely. Adrian McEwen worked on the Museum in a Box, Geoff Browell and Bridget McKenzie recorded voiceovers for some of our items, Frankie Roberto also recorded a voiceover and worked on our translation display for the Rosetta Stone (which emerged as Day 5’s object of focus), and Tom Stuart stopped by to take superb photographs like this and work on some code mugging for another project we’ll be working on soon. Thanks for this super pic, Tom!

The Small Museum panorama

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Day 5: Box with a brain

Today we’re giving the box a brain.

Can the box know what’s in it? Can it know when you pick something up? Can it tell you what it is?

Adrian has brought his magic box of tricks, and his own (amazing) brain.

Arduino kit

Adrian’s Arduino kit

We are using RFID (Radio-frequency identification) tags to identify the different objects.

The RFID stickers were a bit big for most of the objects, so we stuck them on plinths so we could attach the tags.


Then Adrian did some magic…the RFID reader senses the tag, the Arduino reads the tag and sends it to the Raspberry Pi (some readers can speak directly to Pis, but we didn’t have one like that).


And now when you put the Rosetta Stone on the reader you can hear what it is and a translation of the text.


Now we’re going to record the names and label text for all the objects.

And we’re (well, Adrian is) going to set up an infra-red distance sensor to allow us to play different translations of the Rosetta Stone (a different language plays depending on the distance).

The options are endless…

Could people add something to the object and send it on to someone else?

Can we put different boxes in close proximity and they talk to each other?

Can the box collect stories? or responses to stories? or answer questions?

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Day 4: Flower power

We’ve found some amazing photos of Nandi Bull in situ.

Often he is adorned with stunning flowers in vibrant oranges and yellows.

Nandi Chamundi Mysore

Nandi Chamundi Mysore, By Sanjay Acharya (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

Today I had much fun embracing my inner-crafter, creating some flowers for our display.

Creating flowers for Nandi Bull

Here is the first batch.

Tissue paper flowers for Nandi

Here’s the full display.


And Tom S and George with the reveal.


Remember to whisper your wishes to Nandi, he has the ear of Lord Shiva.

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Day 4: Nandi Bull

We started this morning with what has now become our cleansing ritual, where we remove the previous day’s display, stick that on the wall, and then prepare our new day’s actual tabula rasa.

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Our basic idea is to prepare a new display each day based on one or more of the objects. Today is our Nandi Bull.

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Here’s his label:

Figure of Nandi
India, Deccan, 1500s
Carved Granite

The humped bull Nandi (which means ‘rejoicing’) appears at the entrance of every temple dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva, facing the god with a constant serene gaze. Symbolising strength, virility and fertility, as well as religious and moral duties, Nandi is widely recognised both as Shiva’s gatekeeper and as the animal on which he rides. Seated with his legs tucked underneath his body, this figure portrays a representation of Nandi from the southern Indian tradition.
Asia 1923.0306.1

And here’s what he looks like in the museum:


We were struck that the austere granite figure of the Nandi Bull in situ was so inert and static compared to the energy and colour and life that surrounds the bulls installed at shrines to Siva, in real life. They’re celebrated, covered in garlands, whispered to, and surrounded by people, fire and music. The museum experience shows us nothing of that. It didn’t take us long to pick an idea where the display transforms from something bland into something with energy, color and movement.

Here’s the work in progress. We’ll post the finished thing when it’s, well, finished.

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Collection Data

The collection is tiny. Ten objects. It’s liberating to have such a small collection, because our work can be not related to understanding the scope and scale of it, but to quickly dive into stories about each object.

All the objects are listed as Museum in a Box Version 1. In the last couple of days, we’ve focused on single objects, but have some ideas for looking at the whole collection as a group in next week’s work. The fact that this is a semi-random set of British Museum objects is also lending itself to an editorial point of view on the last two days, to look into stories about where each object came from around the world, and how it ended up in Bloomsbury.

But, to the point of this post, we’re also publishing this collection data online. It’s right here (Version 1, last updated 2:20pm March 20, 2015) as a CSV:

Object Name,MIAB_ID,MIAB_URL,BM Explore URL,BM Collection URL,BM Open Data URL,Wikipedia,MyMiniFactory ID,Country of Origin,Place Found,Period,Date,Measurements,Material,Notes
Colossal Marble Foot,37542537,,,,GAA80104,,4566,Italy,Italy / Naples,Roman Imperial,1st-2nd AD,"L:88.9cm, W:48.26cm",Parian marble,Statue would have been 5m tall
Crouching Lion,37542546,,,"|34484,|assetId=172268&objectId=460580&partId=1",GAA8133,,4410,Turkey,Turkey / Xanthus,Classical Greek,400BC,L:1.6m,marble,
Henan Budai Buddha,37542555,,,,RRC10037,,3396,China,China / Henan,Ming dynasty,1486,"H:119.2cm, W:65cm, D:41cm",,
Hoa Hakananai'a,37542564,,,,EOC3130,,3228,Easter Island,Polynesia / Easter Island / Orongo,,1200 (approx),"H:242cm, W:96cm, D:47cm","stone, coral, basalt",Hoa Hakananai'a ('lost or stolen friend') / Moai (ancestor figure)
Housepost,37542573,,,,EOC23102,,4667,Papua New Guinea,Oceania / Melanesia / New Guinea / Papua New Guinea / East Sepik / Ambunti,,Register 1964,"H:100 inches, H:254cm",wood,Anthropomorphic
Nandi Bull,37542582,,,,RRI6925,,4582,India,,,,,,
Rosetta Stone,37542591,,,,YCA62958,,4537,Egypt,Lower Egypt / Nile Delta / El-Rashid / Fort Saint Julie,Ptolemaic,196BC,"H:112.3cm, W:75.7cm, D:28.4cm",granodiorite,Translation
Stone Figure of Xochipilli,37542600,,,,ESA92,,5099,Mexico,,Mexica,AD 1325-1521,"H:55cm, W:32cm","basalt, volcanic stone",Male or Female?
The Bodhisattva Tara,37542609,,,,RRI137,,3002,Sri Lanka,"between Trincomalee and Batticaloa, Sri Lanka",,AD 700-750,"H:143 cm, W:44 cm, D:29.5cm","gold, bronze",
The Goddess Hathor,37542618,,,,YCA69261,,4974,Egypt,Upper Egypt / Temple of Amenhotep III (Thebes),18th Dynasty,,H:139.7cm,limestone,

And we’ve also put it on Github, just for s**ts and g*gg**s, at

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Day 3: Budai Hesheng

One of yesterday’s visitors, Mac, said a nice thing on Twitter, “today’s object of focus” about our piece with Hoa Hakananai’a, so we’re appropriating it. Thanks, Mac 🙂

Day three’s object of focus is the Budai Hesheng. We’re working on a continuation of yesterday’s theme of object location, both where it was made, and where it ended up. He started his life in the Henan Province in China, made in 1486. Fast forward to the 20th Century, and a chap called T. T. Woo sells him to Peter Sparks, from John Sparks Ltd. which has an office in Shanghai. The piece eventually ends up in London, possibly in the John Sparks showroom at 128 Mount Street in Mayfair, before it’s donated to the British Museum in 1937, perhaps due to the plinth being slightly damaged.