Tuesday 26 June 2018

Beach plastics

Put the words BEACH and PLASTICS in the same sentence and thoughts go immediately to the current issues of plastics pollution and the damage to the marine environment caused by the improper disposal of single use plastics. But there is a happier way to consider plastics and the beach as I found during a recent morning walk along Bournemouth’s sea front. 

Giant versions of ice creams outside the kiosk tempted customers to indulge.

This one sadly missing its chocolate flake, possibly removed by an over exuberant holidaymaker.  Generally made from poly-resin and glass-fibre, models such as these are expected to stand up to the vagaries of the English summer weather.

Further along the prom I came across a lovely, colourful display of beach toys for sale.

Buckets, spades, starfish and shell shaped moulds etc. too good to leave behind after a busy day of sand sculpting and shell collecting. Made from lightweight and robust polyethylene and polypropylene such toys are far safer than the ones on offer that I remember as a child.  Bare toes were particularly vulnerable when digging with a metal spade. 

At the same kiosk were containers of brightly coloured windmills for children, made from weather resistant flexible polyester film, and racks of inexpensive sunglasses with acrylic or polycarbonate lenses and lightweight frames, in an inexhaustible range of styles and colours, hopefully offering some protection from the harmful sun’s rays.

Next up was the ubiquitous deck chair. 

Suspended from the traditional folding wooden frame, the striped polyester canvas material, protected from the worst of the weather with a polyurethane coating and treated to resist the effects of UV light, it offers some degree of comfort to those wanting to avoid sitting on the sand. 

Talking of sitting on the sand – a neat stack of sun loungers waiting for customers resembled some sort of weird sculpture created by the repetitious form of their moulded polypropylene frames.

And to top it all off, a giant glass fibre resin penguin to advertise the recent addition of a penguin enclosure at the Oceanarium, a visit to which might make one reflect on the importance of the safe and proper disposal of our unwanted plastics.

Pam Langdown (Collections Manager)

Wednesday 20 June 2018

Expression Through Music

We recently delivered a project: Expression Through Music, which was the result of a successful project proposal being submitted to the Cultural Hub with us receiving a grant of £2,075 to deliver the project.

Music is a universal language that embodies one of the highest forms of creativity. A high quality music education should engage and inspire pupils to develop a love of music and their talent as musicians, and so increase their self-confidence, creativity and sense of achievement. (The Department for Education, National Curriculum in England: Music Programmes of Study Published 11 September 2013)

The national curriculum for music aims to ensure that all pupils perform, listen to, review and evaluate music across a range of historical periods, genres, styles and traditions, including the works of the great composers and musicians. Pupils should have opportunities to understand and explore how music is created, produced and communicated, including through the inter-related dimensions: pitch, duration, dynamics, tempo, timbre, texture, structure and appropriate musical notations.

To coincide with the project, Expression Through Music, our current exhibition is Polyphonic: music through plastics. The word polyphonic describes music that is created by the coming together of different voices. These voices could be generated by humans, traditional instruments, or electronically. This exhibition explores how music can be played, broadcast, and listened to through plastics.

Musical instruments made of plastics materials are robust, offer excellent sound qualities, and are less sensitive to changes in the environment than their traditional equivalents. Being more financially accessible, these instruments allow the playing of music to be available to a wider variety of people than ever before.

The project took place over two weeks in June and allowed a total of 178 pupils from six different schools to engage with MoDiP and the collection.  It was a great way to engage with schools and pupils who had not visited MoDiP before. The schools that participated were: St Lukes C.E School, Heathlands Primary Academy, Cranford Heath Junior & Haymoor Junior, part of Teach Poole, Bethany C.E Junior School & Linwood Campus, Linwood School. The project allowed pupils and teachers to see the benefits of learning outside the classroom and how object-based learning can inspire and have an impact on the lives of those involved.

Each visit lasted approximately two hours, and consisted of two sessions, which the class took part in throughout the morning or afternoon.

The first session took place in the museum whereby pupils engaged with the exhibition guided by myself and explored instruments made of plastics. Pupils were given the opportunity to draw their favourite instrument and write why they liked it.  This was then shared with the group. The final aspect of this session gave pupils the opportunity to express themselves through music by handling and playing instruments made of plastic. They had the opportunity to play an instrument loud, quiet, and slow or fast.

The second session was led by Nick Crump, Music Educator, who supported pupils in making an instrument out of recycled plastic a ‘membranophone’. Once the instruments were made there was an opportunity to play the instrument and the pupils were asked to suggest a new name for the instrument.

This project forms part of a larger project, w-RAP, which is still ongoing, lead by Karen Wimhurst a Composer / Artistic Director. This project is the result of a successful Arts Council England bid whereby Karen will develop a creative music project exploring the light and dark faces of plastics.

Sarah Jane Stevens AMA (Museum Engagement Officer)

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 modip@aub.ac.uk to be sent a pdf document.

Sarah Jane Stevens, AMA (Museum Engagement Officer)