Lisa Meyer, Dr Chis Creed

Submitted Entry for 2014 Competition


Most museum collections are only able to display a small % of their collections, the rest remain hidden in the stores, how can we create a flexible display system that allows for a regular turnover of artefacts to be experienced by greater audiences.
Capsule's creative director will be working in partnership with Dr Chris Creed at the Digital Humanities Hub at the University of Birmingham, to explore the notions of collections and exhibitions and how this can be developed into a digital prototype that can test how collections can be recontextualised in new and innovative ways to develop new audiences. We are looking to partner with an existing digitized collection (British Library) to use this content for our prototype, which is essentially based on the idea of creating a digital framework in which to collate and display a collection based on the notion of a cabinet of curiosity or ‘Wunderkammer'.
A cabinet of curiosities was an encyclopedic collection in Renaissance Europe of types of objects whose categorical boundaries were yet to be defined. They were also known by various names such as Cabinet of Wonder, and in German Kunstkammer ("art-room") or Wunderkammer ("wonder-room") Modern terminology would categorize the objects included as belonging to natural history (sometimes faked), geology, ethnography, archaeology, religious or historical relics, works of art (including cabinet paintings) and antiquities. The Kunstkammer was regarded as a microcosm or theater of the world, and a memory theater. The Kunstkammer conveyed symbolically the patron's control. In other words the system of classification was not based on a scientific approach but rather reflective of whom had chosen the objects and how they chose to display them and the juxtaposition of seemingly disparate objects.
This project aims to subvert the notion of the "patron" so that digital returns curatorial control back to the audience.
We would invite audiences to examine the collections and order them depending on what drew their interest. Making reference to traditional modes of study, the prototype would allow these different selections to be compared and contrasted, helping to examine the collection through a variety of people’s viewpoints.
Essentially this project would create a dialogue, allowing audiences to understand their relationship to collections, and also considering questions around contemporary collecting and heritage, in a digital age.

Assessment Criteria

The research question / problem you are trying to answer

Please focus on the clarity and quality of the research question / problem posed:

Most museum collections are only able to display a small % of their collections, the rest remain hidden in the stores, how can we create a flexible display system that allows for a regular turnover of artefacts to be shared with a larger audiences. Two ways to go
1. Allowing audiences to make choices about their objects and then create their own collections - this allows for a starting point of how objects represent who we are
2. Random selection process (think slot machine) - a playful way to explore a very large collection creating unique experiences for each visitor

Please explain the ways your idea will showcase British Library digital collections

Please ensure you include details of British Library digital collections you are showcasing (you may use several collections if you wish), a sample can be found at

Based on the tradition of the Wunderkammer our intention would be to mix up content and collections– we propose that we’ll focus on the following collections for this prototype taken from the 1 Million Images from scanned books - albums Wildlife (413 images) /flora (487 images)/ Image taken from page 169 of 'Precious Stones and Gems ... Fifth edition, revised and largely rewritten, with chapters on the ruby mines of Burma', Elements of Geology ... Sixth edition, greatly enlarged and illustrated with ... woodcuts

Please detail the approach(es) / method(s) you are going to use to implement your idea, detailing clearly the research methods / techniques / processes involved

Indicate and describe any research methods / processes / techniques and approaches you are going to use, e.g. text mining, visualisations, statistical analysis etc.

We will explore the following:
  • motivation of the audience to interact - what elements can we use to encourage curiousness - /reveals/lights turning on/ magic/alchemy
  • Do you approach a blank cabinet or are there objects in place already?
  • what happens when more than 1 person approaches? - Can the screen be animating and as people approach it stops/slows down so that your view is unique to your experience/your own collection.
  • Are there fixed areas that 'we' trigger and how much do we let the audience change - what control do they have?
  • can this be used as an interface to search further into a collection via tagging?
  • Keeping the aesthetic of a cabinet of curiosity/layering/organised chaos not scientifically ordered

The hardware required for the prototype will include a laptop running Windows 8, a high definition (HD) projector, and a Microsoft Kinect sensor (the Digital Humanities Hub already owns all of this equipment). The prototype will be developed using HTML5, CSS3, JavaScript, and the Kinect for Windows SDK - this will enable us to run the application in a standard web browser such as Google Chrome or Internet Explorer. A digital representation of the cabinet (along with virtual objects) will be projected onto a flat surface using the HD projector. The Microsoft Kinect sensor will be essential for tracking people in real-time and will enable us to create a dynamic experience depending on user actions. In particular, the Kinect sensor is able to track up to six people simultaneously although only two full "skeletons" (with 20 joints) can be tracked at any time. This technology therefore allows us to track when people approach the cabinet and also enables people to interact with the digital cabinet using mid-air gestures. For example, a user could point at an object of interest to select it and get further information (this could be additional text, a video, or a projection of the curator speaking about that object). Moreover, they could use pinch/zoom and rotate mid-air gestures to manipulate 3D content contained within a cabinet.

We will use the prototype developed to explore how we can motivate usage of the cabinet and how we can encourage curiousness through a controlled research study. We will test two different versions of the cabinet - the first will be a cabinet that contains "static" objects that the user can interact with through mid-air gestures. The second will involve using different techniques such as animations of the objects, manipulation of lighting around certain artefacts, and further augmentations in an attempt to guide a user's attention around a cabinet. There will therefore be two conditions - Static Cabinet and Augmented Cabinet. We will use a within-participants design so all participants will interact with both versions of the cabinet. Participants will initially be provided with an overview of how to interact with the cabinet and then given a set period of time (i.e. 5 minutes) to use it. All interactions will be video recorded and analysed after completion of the research study. We will look to get around 15-20 participants which will be sufficient in providing a sense of how people are responding to the different conditions. The key measures will be the number of objects that people interact with and the amount of time they spend interacting with those artefacts.

We would expect that people in the Augmented condition might interact with a wider array of objects compared with the Static cabinet (i.e. the augmentations will encourage broader exploration of the cabinet). However, it is unclear whether this would enhance user experience - it could be that people will find the animations and augmentations tedious and distracting and thus would prefer the "quieter" and less busy Static cabinet. We will therefore conduct semi-structured interviews to explore participants' perceptions of the cabinet as a vehicle for presenting artefacts, the usability of the cabinet interaction via mid-air gesturing, and thoughts around issues and possible improvements. The results of this research will help us better understand the potential of digital cabinets of curiosity and the interaction issues that still require further refinement and exploration.

Please provide evidence of how you / your team have the skills, knowledge and expertise to successfully carry out the project by working with the Labs team

E.g. work you may have done, publications, a list with dates and links (if you have them)

Lisa Meyer – creative director of Capsule

Capsule crafts extraordinary cultural events for adventurous audiences to challenge expectations, make connections and transform lives. Capsule is a cultural alchemist: an innovative arts producer initiating, commissioning and producing multi disciplinary work, which includes festivals, events, artist development and partnerships with a range of organisations. Audiences are at the heart of our thinking. We champion extraordinary artists, working in digital culture and sound, ensuring many can enjoy them. Our work is of the highest quality, authentic and inclusive, our role as cultural developer – spotting as-yet unmet potential and building on it.

Capsule’s track record means that we can draw from the learning and experience of 15 year’s programming including the curation of the Discovery season at the Library of Birmingham which saw an audience of 1.2 million people, as well as conceiving and delivering the groundbreaking Home of Metal heritage project. Capsule is trusted by artists, audiences and partners alike to deliver quality and audacious programming.

Dr Creed works at the Digital Humanities Hub (DHH) specialising in research and development around innovative technologies such as multi-touch tables, 3D virtual environments, large interactive walls, mobile technologies, tangible computing, and mid-air gesturing systems (predominantly in the arts and humanities sector). He works in the research area of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) and has extensive experience in conducting user evaluations across a range of sectors. Chris has worked on numerous projects with arts organisations including the development of multi-touch table applications for The Hive, Birmingham Museums Trust, Ironbridge Gorge Museum and the Library of Birmingham. He has also conducted research in collaboration with research organisations - for instance, earlier this year he led an in-the-wild evaluation of The Hive's touch table application. He also recently worked with DASH (Disability Arts) to conduct a user evaluation exploring the potential for mid-air gesturing technology to help support the process of collaborative art for disabled artists. Moreover, he is currently working with the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust on the development of a project around object authenticity and interactive projections in heritage spaces.

Digital Humanities Hub:

The Digital Humanities Hub (known outwardly as do.collaboration) harnesses the power of digital technologies to enrich learning experiences in the spheres of heritage and culture.

Working in cross-disciplinary, cross-sector partnerships across the creative economy, the expertise of Hub teams enables them to rise to the challenges of massive 2D and 3D data collection, analysis and visualisation for audiences accessing leading edge content on multi-touch, multi-user tables and walls in public spaces, on mobile devices or at home or work via the Internet.

Our aim is to design digital outputs that enable diverse groups of users to gain intuitive access to a vast wealth of information.

The Chowen and Garfield Weston Foundation Digital Prototyping Hall is a globally unique resource for user-testing beta and alpha versions of the team’s multiple outputs, allowing for the tracking, analysis and visualisation of user groups’ movements and digital interactions. As such, the efficacy of the Hub’s innovative outputs will be evidence based, ensuring that learning experiences are tailored to users’ needs and expectations whether they are engaging alone or collectively.

We would be delighted to work in partnership with the British Library Lab team and would really value your expertise and input to explore developing this prototype and how we can address the challenge

Please provide evidence of how you think your idea is achievable on a technical, curatorial and legal basis

Indicate the technical, curatorial and legal aspects of the idea (you may want to check with Labs team before submitting your idea first).

This project is feasible from a technical perspective as the Digital Humanities Hub has developed different applications in other projects using similar technologies. For example, we have used the Kinect sensor to enable people to interact with high definition projections of maps using mid-air gestures. In a different project we have developed prototypes that use mid-air gestures to make large multi-touch tables more accessible for wheelchair users. Moreover, we have developed a prototype that can track dancers in real time (using the Kinect sensor) and then present augmentations based on the tracking data.

On a curatorial basis the project complements and enhanced curatorial programmes within museums rather than replacing them.. It plays with the notion of user generated curation, but in doing so creates a more meaningful engagement allowing audiences to also engage with curated content as it creates a curatorial dialogue and understanding. The user testing on motivation will open up discussion around the nature and evolution of curation and it's relation to audiences through the use if digital.

IP .. Lisa and Uob would share the prototype with BL but swerve the right to develop beta models then further concepts with other types of collection.. Uob would wish to be able to publish and reference the work with due credit to BL if agreeable.

Please provide a brief plan of how you will implement your project idea by working with the Labs team

You will be given the opportunity to work on your winning project idea between May 26th - Oct 31st, 2014.

June –July Dr Chris Creed creates the digital frame ‘Wunderkammer’ in collaboration with Lisa Meyer

July – Sept Work with British Library lab team to select digital assets from the collection 2000+ artefacts
test different scenerios ie randomized selections/color based collections/tagging

Sept – Oct user testing evaluate these across a group of test participants to look at effectiveness and pros/cons at the Digital Humanities Hub. Share results with British Library