Researcher Blog with PhD Candidate Caroline Claisse: Behind the Scenes at the Curious House
About the author
Caroline Claisse is a doctoral student in the Art & Design Research Centre (ADRC) where she is pursuing a practice-led PhD working with tangible technologies to prompt audience engagement in museums. Caroline’s PhD supervisors are: Professor Daniela Petrelli, Dr Luigina Ciolfi and Nick Dulake.
This week Caroline has launched her latest interactive exhibition ‘Curious House’ in collaboration with Bishops’ House Museum in Sheffield. The exhibition which was funded by the Cultural, Communication and Computing Research Institute (C3RI) aims to explore layers of history through the lives of previous inhabitant of Bishops’ House. In this post, Caroline reveals preparations behind the scenes leading up to the exhibition opening.
The exhibition Curious House (2017) is taking place at the Bishops’ House Museum in Sheffield from 28 October to 10 December 2017. In preparation for this exhibition I have been collaborating with a group of museum volunteers. Over the last year we have co-created an interactive exhibition that explores the layers of time at the Bishops’ House – a Tudor house, inhabited for over 500 years, and turned into a museum about Tudor history in the 1970s.
This new exhibition features five interactive portraits and a collection of handling objects; each representing one character imagined by the museum volunteers. During the design process, I used creative and participatory methods such as workshops, focus group and design critique sessions to develop ideas and content together with the volunteers.
For example, in the first workshop “A day in the life of”, volunteers worked in small groups and used prompt cards, diaries and role play activities to step in the shoes of their imagined characters. We then used the characters in follow up workshops to co-select artefacts from the museum collection and co-develop themes and narrative for each imaginary resident. With the interactive installation, we wanted visitors to understand the house through different time periods and to engage with the many families who lived in Bishops’ House. In order to be able to explore Bishops’ House as a home, it was important for volunteers to demonstrate a domestic touch in the museum. To achieve this we created each portrait as a “domestic tableau” or interior representing the characters’ environment in a poetic and theatrical way.
At the university, I was supported by an amazing and multidisciplinary team, including Human-Computer Interaction expert, Dr Mark Marshall and my supervisor Nick Dulake, Senior Industrial Designer, Design Futures. I also worked closely with exhibition technician, Chris Amner to programme, develop and build the final exhibit.
As a result, museum visitors are able to handle objects inspired by the characters’ stories and activate their portraits to hear different reactions about the objects. During the exhibition, I will be observing how visitors engage with the interactive installation and look for different levels of engagement (e.g. emotional, personal) with the heritage site.
With this work, I aim to further explore my research questions investigated through my practice-led PhD where I investigate the potential of digital technology and tangible interaction to bring heritage to life in historic house museums.
Curious House (2017) is my final design intervention before writing up my PhD and builds on the success of Curious House (2016) where three artists and myself created engaging new work in response to the Bishops’ House, its association, and collection.
I hope to see you there and look forward to hearing your feedback!
Please note: Views expressed are those of the Author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of SHU, C3RI or the C3RI Impact Blog.