Ralph Mills – Proposal

The Mega-Museum Project

My over-ambitious, lofty and naïve goal for my mega-museum project (working title), is to create a digital artefact — a “virtual museum” — the crowd-sourced galleries of which would be accessible by everyone. My deadline is October 2013, timed to coincide with the grand opening of Manchester School of Art’s new building.

We all curate narratives that illuminate our everyday lives. Many of those narratives relate to objects. However museums-within-walls are historically descended from the collections of elites, can rarely display more than a fraction of their accessioned collections and are by definition fixed in one place (so have to be visited)

I visualise a simple-to-use “anti-museum,” a digital museum to which everyone might contribute both exhibits and, most importantly, their accompanying narratives and through which everyone could browse and search. Using digital tools the “visitor,” wherever they are in the world, would explore within the museum for objects and their stories, and assemble and create personalised exhibitions that match their individual interests.

The {CODE Creatives} brief was to focus initially on a “technology gallery” that would share, explore and display technologies that we have valued, used and experienced together with our stories of our relationships with them. So my digital artefact, whatever that will eventually be, will use that as a central idea. However, because my PhD research is looking at other objects, I’m intending to create something that will be applicable to that field of research as well as many others.

I also see my (anti-)museum as offering a resource to museums that so often have to reject, politely but sometimes hurtfully, the donations of objects that, though not of interest to the curators for entirely justifiable reasons, are hugely important to the potential donors.

Because access to online digital resources isn’t universal (indeed it could be argued that a significant proportion of those interested in sharing their narratives might be members of generations where online activity is minimal, although I’m going to attempt to leap that hurdle) I also aim to create something that can be accessible in other ways.

This extended museum has several advantages over the traditional museum-within-walls:

  • The objects in it are still “alive” because they still form part of our personal narratives; It values “everyday” objects that have been/are important to us, rather than the behind- the-glass possessions of elites; It enables the sharing of immense amounts of knowledge and experience.
  • The Mega-Museum will be “ordinary” enough, technologically simple and non-threatening to welcome anyone who can, say, complete an online form and press a submit button.

The project originates in my personal goal of enhancing the dissemination and sharing of my PhD research into everyday objects, and perhaps crowdsourcing elements of my research activities.

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