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Exploring new museum practices through design

Hi, my name is Rikke Baggesen, I am a postdoc researcher in museology and design at Roskilde University, and will be resident at ENIGMA Museum for the next year and a bit for a collaborative design and research project. The project is part of the national ‘Our Museum’ research programme, in which five universities and eight museums work together on a total of 13 individual research projects with a joint interest in understanding and developing innovative museum practices.

Together with Enigma I will be focusing on the design development of what the museum has so far conceptualised as ‘the explorative exhibition’. The concept refers to an intended future practice or ‘mechanism’ that creates a synergy between participatory collection practices, research processes and museum communication.

As a museum of communication, ENIGMA is not only interested in exploring the historical development of communication technologies, but also wants to address how these technologies play into and shape our everyday lives, and how we shape technology in return. Apparently, however, this everyday perspective on the uses and experiences of interpersonal communication media – how we used to use our landline phones, what we made of our first modem, how we now (mis)manage mobile communication and battles over screen time – is underrepresented in the existing research field. Therefore, the desire to involve the public in the co-creation of this immaterial cultural heritage narrative, by inspiring reflection and eliciting visitors’ stories through exhibits and events, is not only a strategic device for creating an interactive museum experience. It is also an important means for building knowledge in the museum and in the wider communication research community.

The ambition – and the challenge – is therefore to create a system/ an instrument/ a coordinated practice, that supports these joint objectives and creates value for the user participants, for non-participating visitors, and for museum researchers, curators and communicators.

But one thing is concepts and ambitions – another is how to turn them into a concrete museum design. This process is the focus of my project, in which I as researcher/designer will work as a catalyst for the collaborative ideation, design development, and evaluation of principles and prototypes for ‘the explorative exhibition’. I will thus be working closely together with the museum team to define our own design intentions, but also, as importantly, to build an understanding of how co-creation of heritage becomes relevant and interesting from a citizen/user perspective, and from this, begin to explore the design possibilities in this field.

At this point, I cannot say whether we’ll end up with a service design, an interactive installation, a digital interface, a workshop format, a work process or something else entirely, only that my hope is that we will experiment with some very different options along the way, and use the design process as a lab for examining ideas and incentives and reflecting on outcomes. And then, in time, narrow it down enough to develop a functioning prototype which we can test, redesign and refine in order to suggest a final design that could feed into the future museum practice.

This objective, and the anchoring in the museum institution, means of course that the project has a strong orientation towards practice. While the process may be experimental and allow for exploration of wild ideas and alternative methods, the aim is to produce a result that has real value for the museum.

But of course, the project also serves a research purpose, and similarly aims to contribute to the fields of design research and museum studies with new knowledge about how design methods and research collaborations may help to advance museum development. Working within a tradition called research-through-design, I will thus be using design not only as a tool for development, but also as a tool for examining the conditions, understandings and interests that are at play and for reflecting on the effect of adding a research perspective to the development process.

Over the course of the next year, the project will unfold through a series of workshops, participatory activities, user tests (wanna get engaged? send me a mail!), discussion seminars and more, and I look forward to share the progress and insights here as well as on my project blog. More information on the Our Museum programme can be found here.

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Rikke Baggesen

Rikke Baggesen er postdocforsker ved ENIGMA og RUC, tilknyttet det tværfaglige forskningsprojekt Vores Museum. Rikke Baggesen is a postdoc fellow at ENIGMA and Roskilde University, connected to the interdisciplinary research project Vores Museum/Our Museum.

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