There are many ways to look at the objects in
the MoDiP collection. With this series of posts I want to highlight
the interesting views of objects that we may ordinarily miss. These
include the underside of an object, the surface pattern, or traces of manufacturing processes.
Venue: London Transport Museum Date: 14th February 2017
We had a very busy day facilitating the Symbiosis seminar at the London Transport Museum. The day was filled with vibrant discussion on how museums should interact with industry.
The seminar was very well attended with 19 delegates from a range of museums as listed below:
Silk Museum, Macclesfield
Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture
The Hat Works – Hatting Museum
Queens and PWRR Regiment Museum
The Port Sunlight Village Trust
Village Church Farm
Museum of Carpet
The Georgian Theatre Royal
British Optical Association Museum
Ramsey Rural Museum
The Bursledon Brickworks
The Food Museum
Alexandra Palace and Park Charitable Trust
Museum of Design in Plastics
The meeting was opened by Daniel Cox, Knowledge Exchange Manager at the University of Arts Bournemouth. A round the table introduction was made by each delegate outlining the museum that they represented and the outcomes they were looking to gain from the day.
Professor Susan Lambert, Curator of the Museum of Design in Plastics, made a presentation introducing the Symbiosis Project, which forms part of the Arts Council Museum Resilience Fund which is working towards the empowerment of smaller museums to develop effective collaborative projects with industry and hence become more commercially sustainable.
Susan explained the need for a step change in understanding the potential for knowledge exchange, the ability of staff to engage and the development of leadership skills in engaging with industry.
The project will involve a small number of partner museums who will explore how collaborative projects can support museum priorities, consider the barriers that are encountered and form their individual commercial offer to industry.
Susan explained how the programme will use the expertise of an industrial consultant, who will assist with the overcoming of barriers, help in understanding the commercial opportunities that are available and ultimately work with the museums in identifying their commercial offer.
The programme will start with the launch seminar and further dialogue will be made via telephone calls with the partner museums throughout the duration of the project. This activity will culminate in a masterclass lead by the industry consultant to discuss how the learning outcomes from the project can be transferred to other organisations.
The morning session continued with a very interesting presentation made by the London Transport Museum. They have a significant resource for engaging with relevant stakeholders in their sector, raising money through corporate membership and sponsorship, with support from trusts and foundations as well as public funding. A Patrons Circle and Friends membership has been developed to assist in fundraising activity and collaborative projects.
Other projects that were introduced included a return to work programme for the long term unemployed.
The presentation was very interesting in terms of how a larger museum approaches the aspect of fundraising and collaborations with various stakeholders.
During the day, a number breakout sessions were held during which several questions were put to the group as listed below:
1. How can museums benefit from engaging with business and industry in their sectors? Prioritised responses:
Donation of artefacts
Meeting museum objectives
Collection of knowledge
Staffing/access to resource
Equipment, cutting edge
Embedded in industry
Develop social history
2. What are your museum’s current priorities?
Engaging students and researchers /learning and education
Preserve and protect
Increase visitor numbers
Centre of expertise
Establish and maintain reputation for expertise and specialist knowledge
Providing inspired learning opportunities
Interpret social history
Maintain and make safe (machinery)
Income through space letting
Develop collection ad visitor experience
Sustainability / survival
Activity plan (educational/outreach)
Fulfilling objects of the trust
Fulfilling terms of grants.
3. What is your museum’s unique commercial offer?
Access to historical artefacts /collection/archives
Brand heritage/reputation preservation
Access to expert knowledge/consultancy
Use of buildings for weddings, parties etc.
Use of buildings/location for tv, films etc.
Licensing of images or collections
Unique heritage of television beginnings
Space letting opportunities
Enhancement of reputation through meaningful connections and networking
4. What are the barriers to engagement?
Identify company and person/ how to approach
Lack of commercial/legal knowledge
Competitors (other museums)
Identifying the offer
Exploitation of the museum
Perceived lack of interest
Ensuring return on investment
Restrictions on engagement (funding guidelines)
The trustees (resource or barrier?)
5. What resources would you find useful in developing industry collaborations?
To be able to practice the sales pitch and get feedback
Information on going rates for work, what should we charge?
Case studies (charges, long or short term)
How to develop an offer/think commercially
Advice on best medium to use for promotion (films, events)
Template of standard questions
The questions raised created a great deal of debate amongst the group, this culminated in the delegates completing a feedback form detailing their reaction to the day
Jeremy Pingstone (Industry Consultant to the Symbiosis project)
The project has gone into full making mode and a lot of research and testing has happened over the last few weeks. The first lampshade that I wanted to do was the large mushroom, as it would need the most time to cure as it will be made from concrete. The decision to use concrete for this particular shade is because of its curved and fluid look. Concrete is sometimes associated with harsh angles, and large bulky mass. This item will celebrate its diversity and ability to create beautiful and fluid curves.
The first stage of exploration was to research how these curves could be achieved, the shade would need to be thin enough that it could be placed on top of a stand, whilst being as lightweight as possible so it did not buckle the metal that separated it from the bulb. Once this research was done and equipment was sourced, the first tests were made. These were made using a white concrete mix, with no aggregate so a smooth finish could be obtained. Plastic bowls were used as moulds and three tests were done, experimenting with perforation and pattern. The outcomes were all successful, they were structurally sound and the shape achieved was exactly as desired. The patterned one did not come out as well as the concrete did not fill into all of the gaps, but the perforated one made the interplay of light very interesting. Now that the tests are complete, a larger and more detailed shade is in the process of being made, along with a stand so it mimics the shape of the mushroom.
First concrete bowl experiment
The next shade to be made is the shell. This will be made out of oak veneer due to its flexibility and delicateness. This material will allow light to permeate through and create a warm light. The design for the shade takes elements from the plastic shade, but will be smaller in scale and will house the bulb differently. This is because of the nature of the material and close contact to a heat source may cause the veneer to scorch so to eliminate any problems, the shade will be used for a suspended light, allowing a constant flow of air through it.
Tests have been done looking at how to join the veneer without creating too much bulk. Using its application within architecture, a knowledge of how this material is connected to other materials has helped developed an understanding of its versatility as well as how fragile it is. These are considerations that have been thought out within the design.
Oak veneer for shell lampshade
The veneer came as a roll and due to its expense, the design has to ensure that there is minimum wastage. The first trial was using paper to work out dimensions and lengths needed. These were successful but there is still some work to be done to ascertain how these will be connected.
The project is constantly pushing my learning further and my knowledge of the materials and their qualities is being expanded on a weekly basis. The tests and research have been invaluable, especially with concrete, as each test can produce a different result, and so using these tests has enabled me to decide on a particular course of action for the final piece. The other four shades have all been designed and the materials have been decided, they will use paper, copper, fabric and plaster. Taking time to look at the plastic shades within the MoDiP collection has helped understand their construction, and something that I did not expect was their fragility. Plastics are sometimes though to be robust and everlasting, but examining some of these shades highlights how delicate and easily broken they can become, and so using architectural materials, increasing the longevity of an item, has added another layer to the project.
Rebecca Smith (Student Creative)
Rebecca is a 2nd year BA (hons) Architecture student at the Arts University Bournemouth