Carson also shared a screenshot of his desktop, covered in little items, mine looked like this until about 20 minutes ago when I shoved everything into a folder.

This image made me think about my project, could I display either the objects or the emotions a bit like this?
Could be cool to try !

I started the week off watching the lecture material and lecture by David Carson on design and discovery.
I loved this tone of voice example he used.
I’ve seen different examples of this but it’s always a good reminder that the way you present things really does make a difference.

I’ve had a thought about the emotions each being a pixel of texture or colour that attaches to an item in the collection…

Starting to prototype my version of the digital archive

So for this project I’ve decided to use Figma. I’m really pleased that I’m using this opportunity to have a go at UX / UI design.
It’s not something I’ve ever done before. Putting together these wire frames has got me thinking more about how each element will work. I took to the ideas wall to get some feedback:

I’m having my first ever go at a Figma Wireframe for the Science Museum project. This video above shows a SUPER SIMPLE beginning to how I would like the webpage to look. My project is about decolonising the archive. There isn’t currently anything written about the manor in which a lot of the collection has been acquired on the Digital Archive. This digital archive will list only items acquired by colonial

actions. viewers can search for items via its location origin or by spinning the globe and clicking on clusters of items. The idea of this platform is to decenter the narrative imposed on objects by asking the public to attach their own feelings to an object digitally…. A sort of healing process…. My idea is that as more people add their emotional reactions to an object layers of colour or texture will be added to the map. ……. I’d be super keen to hear people’s thoughts on this project. I feel a little out of my depth with this subject matter, [and Figma haha] and really want to get the tone right. Thanks!!

After reading this back I felt that maybe it didn’t reeeally make sense. Is it appropriate to ask everyone to add an emotional reaction to an object? Probably not, but it is VERY relevant to ask people to add connections to an object and then let others with no connection read through all of the stories that have been added. I decided to add to my ideas wall post:

* after reading through my idea I’m actually thinking that a better thing to do would be to ask viewers ‘Do you have a personal connection to this item?’. The archive would then show items and show any personal ‘connections’ in a written format. The digital archive would grow in size and people’s connections to items would help build a more real narrative for an item.

I got a bit of feedback from Renee: LOVE this concept, Ellie. Repatriation of cultural artefacts is so topical.
It felt good to get even a little bit of positive feedback as I’d been feeling a bit self conscious that perhaps my project was totally missing the mark. Her use of the word Repatriation also really got me thinking about how Digital Archives could actually hold items once they have been repatriated? Perhaps that is also what my project could do? The aim could be to digitally create as much info on the artifact as possible, 3D scan it, photograph it, add data to it and then repatriate it but with the digital artifact still present in the collection… hmm

Refining the title and aim of my project

I spoke to my girlfriend about my project and she suggested I think about the what, why, how and who of the project… it actually really helped me define what it is I am trying to achieve with this platform. This week we are also due to be presenting our ideas to John Stack from the museum which is a really good deadline for me to have things very clear in my mind so I am able to articulate them well enough.
Although I’m kind of tempted just to head straight to Figma I think I need to go back to the storyboarding process first and really have a clear vision of what the user journey through the platform will be and what the copy will be saying to people.

I started having a deeper delve into articles focussing on the repatriation of artifacts, this one from Salam Al Quntar really struck a cord with this particular project I am working on and the emotion surrounding those artifacts.

The fourth point focused on the issue they termed “the plunder of our history,” a phrase often used in public Arab discourse to refer to the removal of cultural artifacts to the West.
In particular, the program focuses on the feeling of Arab or Muslim visitors to the British Museum when viewing “our stolen artifacts”: a feeling of anger and frustration, a physical reminder of a historic agony that still impacts Western–Middle Eastern relations today.
Salam Al Quntar
Repatriation and the Legacy of Colonialism in the Middle East

There is no time more appropriate than now to acknowledge that western relationships with a lot of countries are not healed. There are still great atrocities being committed and still huge parts of history being swept under the carpet… there is a delicate line to tread, but still the correct thing to do with the collection is to acknowledge past wrongdoings, repatriate items and preserve the stories and memories associated with those items.

Despite their promise for forms of repatriation, these digital practices also parallel histories of research, archiving and information dissemination that have not considered local protocols for the circulation of cultural knowledge.
Hennessy-2009-Anthropology_News20191006-109412-67y0fc-libre.pdf

Wuhhh it’s a complex issue! I haven’t yet encountered any articles on the notion of repatriating items and then keeping a digital record.

The true role of heritage is said to lie in constructing identities, developing memories, and ascribing values that deserve to be preserved for the benefit of future generations, rather than preserving the monuments or traditions that have survived from the past

For over two hundred years the display of the Parthenon Sculptures in the British Museum has paid scant attention to the truth at the heart of the historical discourse. Virtual reunification by means of the display of near-perfect replicas of the Parthenon Sculptures could achieve the aims of the Universal Museum. Virtual reunification cannot achieve the restitution that Greece is seeking. Each carving was made to fit into the Parthenon Frieze at a unique angle and each panel sculpted for a specific place. Even among pieces that appear to have exactly similar proportions, the imperceptible differences are numerous. The sacrifice of the Athenians that grounds the restitution claim is an intangible dimension of the material that is more than the stock of knowledge the Athenians possessed. This explains the ontological priority of the question of their belonging in restitution claims for cultural heritage, as well as the urgency of responding to the real question of our time: “Can digital technology help cultural institutions and states to face up to the injustices of the past and the repatriation claims they may be bound up in?”
Roodt – The Role of Digital Technology in the Restitution of Cultural Artifacts

I love the statement here about the true role of heritage being to construct identities, develop memories and ascribe values that deserve to be preserved. I’m learning through this process that repatriation isn’t even just as simple as the argument of who originally owned an item. I’m not sure what I think about the notion of virtually reunification to a country… I think it makes more sense [to me anyway] and is more ethical for the museum to keep the virtual object and for the country to be given the original item back. I need to remember that what I am trying to achieve in this project is not to repatriate all items in the collection. I want to make it accessible for people to add their connections to an item and for artifacts to have clear statements attached to them about how they were obtained. The real story of how this happened in many cases will now be lost but perhaps by allowing people to add connections / memories to an item a healing process can begin, this can happen with or without any form of repatriation claim happening in the background.

SO…
Where does this all leave me and my project!? What the bloody hell am I trying to do!? Do I need to focus on items just taken through colonial actions or can I focus on all items? Does this make it really hard to find items again?

I need to think back to where I started and apply what I now know, What is it that I want my digital archive to do?

– I want people to be able to discover items through a map function, showing the items country of origin.
– For items to clearly acknowledge if they were acquired through colonial activities / stolen etc etc in their description.
– For people to be able to add memories or connection to an item
– For people to be able to browse the memories and connections other people have added.

COOL…
When it’s written like this that feels a bit more achievable and now I really REALLY need to start looking into the visual language and user journey of this project.

Items in the digital archive are displayed via country of origin.
You can use the search bar to search via country or origin or just explore the map.
We acknowledge that many items in the collection have been acquired through past colonial activities and we are asking for viewers to add memories or connections to artifacts to help us build a more holistic record of the history of the items we hold.

New Sketch

Think this takes too long to actually get to the items!

Maybe I just need to focus on the fact that this collection is highlighting the colonial past in which many of these items might have been obtained.

I also need to think about why a user would come back to this?

Maybe try and think about more of a person centered approach

Ask the viewer who they are… where they are from… maybe match them with items based on location? This could be super limiting though. I really want to somehow break down the barrier of not talking about how some of these items have been collected.

Maybe what could actually happen is you could click the map and generate random items from random places AND you could also click a filter which adds ‘uncomfortable truths’ hidden within the collection.

To be honest after presenting my idea in the critique I felt pretty disheartened…
I feel like I’ve picked a topic which isn’t fun and engaging because it is super uncomfortable and I’m also skirting around the edges of the topic a little and haven’t got a fully rounded platform or user experience.
The engaging part of my project is the map and clicking on potentially random objects using the map…
I think the next part about collecting memories etc is potentially a bit lost or a bit too speculative.

Going back to the brief & re-considering audience to better define my idea

We want these tools to:

  • Encourage meaningful browsing amongst our collection — inspiring and surprising users by what we have in the collection;
  • Be usable for audiences looking for both a content “snack” as well as audiences looking for deeper information;
  • Explore mechanisms to showcase the breadth and diversity of the collection, but for this to still be relevant;
  • Explore whether we need to tailor browse interfaces for different areas or subjects within the collection — they may have different audiences;
  • Discovery tools can be a separate layer or can be integrated into the object pages themselves.

I think I had potentially lost sight a little that this was for users to discover items in the digital archive. I’d got a bit bogged down with the argument of decolonisation…
I sent an email to my tutor which explains where my head was at following the Science museum critique:

After the Science Museum Critique I’ve realised my idea isn’t very user centered and it brought up quite a lot of questions about whether I’m going in the right direction.

– I’m struggling a bit with the decolonisation element. It’s obviously a HUGE topic and I am really conscious that I don’t want to make something crap but I also don’t want to decide it’s to hard and just make an interactive map instead {that feels really wrong!}

– I’ve realised that all of the artifacts that I’m looking at that have questions over where and how they were collected are in the folk medicine section.

– I’m wondering whether I should shift the focus a little. Should I head in a more folk medicine direction and really play on the fact that I am presenting curiosities or whether I go down the route of facing uncomfortable truths within the collection?

Today I put together a SUPER basic figma web flow to show how the website could look.
I haven’t been able to show the map changing as more voices were added to items yet but that really is key to this idea working. (I’ve attached a video of the figma flow to this email so you can see where I am visuals wise)

I think I’m basically just really questioning whether my project is any good and whether it would be an asset to the science museum database. I could see how potentially exploring the imagery around folk medicine could also be a really nice addition and perhaps I could somehow weave all of this together?

Ethnography & Folk Medicine

Notes after tutorial with Frauke

  • Decolonising could be about hierachy, this project is a stopover… a journey as a part of something bigger.
  • Ultimately returning the items has to happen but itcould be that we just research their stories more.
  • Changing the narrative of an object, giving a voice to an object
  • Making overlooked objects more visable
  • Look at how deep into the archive we afe traveling, this could present some interesting visuals.
    Position the project as experimental trying to create empathy to the user… I have been the user and designer as part of this process
  • Contemporary research methods bing in the self
  • How is this project widening the chokehold in our field
  • My target audience might be in the future, it might not be actualised yet
  • How are museums giving artifacts a different presence? How can they help people to see?
  • Reposition the artifact!
  • Find my critical path!!!

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