Monday, 11 June 2018

Washday blues

Where do you store your laundry basket?

For years I have dreamt of having a utility room so that I would have one dedicated space to put all of my clothes washing ‘stuff’. For example, the airer lives in the spare room. It used to live in the garage but has been used so frequently of late that it now resides permanently inside the house. The laundry basket, when full, sits at the end of my bed, a constant reminder to put all of the clean clothes away. When I have actually achieved this chore, the basket has no fixed abode. Sometimes it stays at the end of my bed looking lost. Sometimes it lives in the spare room. Sometimes it finds its way into my daughter’s bedroom being used as part of a game. Recently, as I have been redecorating, it has started to get in the way.

I started to give some serious thought to the issue of where to put this thing when I came up with the brilliant idea of acquiring a collapsible version that could be stored more easily. After doing loads of research I decided to buy this:

The body is made from silicone, a soft and flexible plastic which allows the layers to concertina in on themselves in order for the basket to fold up and down. When flat it is only 7.5cm tall but it extends an extra 20cm to hold a whole wash load (as can be seen by the mountain of school uniform waiting to be hung on the line).

It made me think about how amazing silicone is as a material. For example, it is lightweight but strong, non-reactive, non-porous (so it does not harbour bacteria), moisture resistant, it can withstand extreme temperatures, has excellent weatherability and is a good insulator. As a result it is used in lots of different industries such as:

  • aerospace eg. silicone gaskets provide an airtight seal around windows and doors
  • healthcare eg. respiratory tubing - silicone is hypoallergenic and easy to sterilise
  • alternative energy eg. silicone adhesives are used in the manufacture of solar cells and wind turbines
  • transport eg. silicone coatings ensure airbags remain gas tight and heat resistant
  • construction eg. silicone sealants (I use these all the time in my house)
  • food and drink eg. insulating silicone oven gloves and non-stick cake moulds.

Some people argue that silicone should not be classified as a plastic but here at MoDiP we do include it within our collections. We have 66 objects that contain this remarkable material: my favourite is the squeezy marmite bottle which has a silicone valve. Does marmite taste the same out of a squeezy bottle? Sounds like another blog…

Katherine Pell (Collections Assistant)

Friday, 8 June 2018

Guess the object

MoDiP has the kind of collection that you may think you are very familiar with. We have objects which we all use every day, and some pieces which are more unusual.

By looking at this distorted image are you able to guess what the object is? What do you think it could be used for?

Post your answer in the comments below or to find the answer click here and you will be taken to the MoDiP catalogue.

Louise Dennis (Assistant Curator)

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Our First Focus Group

Focus groups elicit information about feelings, perceptions, ideas and experience – all qualitative data. They consist of five to ten people who are brought together to talk about a particular subject or project.

Participants can be selected to represent particular user groups (families, local community, age, gender or accessibility) this enables a subject or project to be developed to meet their particular needs and interests. Those participating are told in broad terms what they are going to be asked about. A facilitator guides the session using a set of guidelines drawn up in advance, listing types of questions to be asked. Questions are open-ended and pictures / objects can be used to stimulate discussion and response.

Focus groups allow ideas to be discussed and developed with your audience, in order that a subject or project is a reflection of a two way conversation with your audience revealing that you have engaged with the views / opinions of your audience. This creates ways of engaging and interpreting subjects that increase the interest of knowing - a thirst for knowledge, and an appetite for understanding. As a museum you are also building support, commitment and a sense of ownership. Projects should not be developed for your audience but with your audience.

We recently held our first focus group led by our Museum Engagement Officer, on Wednesday 14th February 2018. Ten people attended who represented eight audiences: museums, arts organisation, conservator, school teacher, AUB professional service staff, AUB academic staff, AUB student and public. We held the focus group with the aim of widening our audience beyond AUB within the community by asking ‘what do you want to get out of MoDiP?’

The evaluation looked at participants answers to ten questions. It gave an overview of audiences opinions about plastics, level of understanding and knowledge of plastics, what they would most like to learn about plastics and what they feel a museum like MoDiP should offer its visitors.

Questions asked during the focus group included ‘how much do you know about plastics?’ Out of the ten participants, nine said they knew ‘something’ and one said they knew ‘a lot’. A good example of why they felt they knew something was due to the daily use of plastics.

Participants were asked ‘how do you feel about plastics?’ which opened up fascinating responses in that participants felt plastics were essential to daily use, have changed our lives for the good / bad and are misunderstood / misapplied.

Further questions asked of the participants were in relation to design in plastics, 'what subjects they would like to see addressed through a display or exhibition?’ The top subject in common with most participants was, recycling. We have now programmed in what will be our second exhibition on recycling ‘plastics and sustainability’ in 2019.

As a result of the focus group MoDiP is thinking about how audience opinions can add value and looking at how we might incorporate other issues raised by the focus group. They include:

  • As a specialist museum for design in plastics we should seek opportunities to take the lead in changing people’s perceptions / opinions about plastics, to make them more understood and to look beyond the negative which the media portray.
  • Have objects available in the museum for handling so our public can appreciate what they feel like, how heavy they are etc., as well as what they look like.
  • A programme of rolling exhibitions in the cases outside the museum relating to different AUB courses.
  • Develop a video, film or animation, explaining the range of processes used in plastics manufacturing.

The focus group has highlighted the value of engaging and listening to the voices of our existing and potential audiences. We intend to hold more focus groups in order to work in collaboration with our audiences rather than for them. 

For the full evaluation of the focus group please e-mail us at to be sent a pdf document.

Sarah Jane Stevens, AMA (Museum Engagement Officer)