Third Community Workshop

Shouting about our projects!

Rebecca and Pavla of Ladbury PR, the agency running the press for Heritage Sandbox, led our third Community Workshop. With an impressive amount of coverage already under our belt (including a Wired article and podcast, a feature in Museum Journal, interviews on BBC Radio Bristol and a post on Culture 24) Ladbury were keen to find out the teams’ ‘dream media’ for their projects.

This led to a discussion about how to approach media interviews effectively both in general and how to talk about these projects specifically. There are a number of challenges here related to spending public money, the importance of academic reputation and the use of technical language. For example we talked about how Memory of Theatre should refer to their indoor positioning system in a way that is accurate enough to be true while emphasising the problem that it solves; ‘GPS for when you are inside?’

Ladbury then asked each team to come up with a sentence describing their project, the 3 key messages they would want to convey and to consider the tough questions they might be asked in an interview. The results of this activity can be seen below.

Future Cemetery

We're bringing a heritage cemetery to life using 21st century technology

Key messages:

  1. Cemeteries (like Arnos Vale) are a repository of people's heritage
  2. Cemeteries (like Arnos Vale) have always been beautiful places to visit
  3. This project is using 21st century technology to bring a historic cemetery and its stories to life for modern-day visitors

Tough questions:

  • How is this not disrespectful?
  • Will this upset families / bereaved people?
  • What do families of interred people think of all this?
  • Are you going to be telling ghost stories?
  • Isn’t this all a bit morbid?
  • Why should we talk about death?
  • Why should I visit a cemetery rather than go to the zoo / ss Great Britain / M Shed?
  • Why waste money on gadgets rather than use good old-fashioned stories?


Reflecting the Past

We're creating special hi-tech mirrors to generate unexpected reflections in a range of locations.

 Key Messages:

  1. Virtually populating empty spaces
  2. Glimpsing other worlds - past, present and fictional
  3. Creating surprise and delight

Tough questions:

  • Will it work?
  • if walls could talk what would they say?

Ivory Bangle Lady

Our project is about creating a new method of allowing people to connect with the stories behind human remains. Specifically, we will be bringing back the life of a woman who lived and died 16 centuries ago to a modern digitally-engaged audience.

Key messages:

  1. The story of the Ivory Bangle Lady reveals that Roman York may have been as multi-cultural as today and that assumptions that immigrants were low status, males slaves may not be correct.
  2. The study of human remains is an important and relevant science and the public display of such artefacts should be promoted.
  3. Archaeology is not all about history, cutting-edge scientific techniques are used to discover and assess human remains and artefacts.

Tough questions:

  • Isn’t it better to leave human remains alone? Is this type of project disrespectful?
  • With this ‘research’, what gives you the right to rewrite history?
  • Why should the public purse pay for this type of activity?

City Strata

The Cine(m)apping app maps Bristol's screen heritage so you can experience local cinema history in the places where it actually happened.

Key messages:

  1. Heritage and participation – the key thing being that people can contribute their own archive and comments so that the history is dynamic.  
  2. The importance of location in both the platform and the app
  3. Making the invisible visible – revealing the lost cinemas in Castle Park, for example.

Tough questions:

  • Why is this important?  
  • What about the issues of accessibility / digital exclusion?


Ghosts in the Garden

This project uses audio digital technology and researched biographies of Georgian garden visitors to enable visitors today to experience the past – not as tourists – but as active problem-solvers and decision makers in a heritage landscape.

Key messages:

  1. Its about experience not ‘authoritative’ information – so we are tuning in and time travelling, not being guided around.
  2. Agency – decision making – is what its about. Also, problem solving and learning as we do so. ‘Experiential learning’ and ‘affective turn’.
  3. This is about fantasy and drama but is underpinned by sound historical research.
  4. We want to hide the technology and create seamless interaction.

Tough questions:

  • Isn’t settling the difference between historical fact and popular fiction impossible?
  • Isn’t this project about dumbing down the past?



Memory of Theatre

The Memory of Theatre invites audiences to return their memories of past performances to Bristol Old Vic and enables future audiences to hear the stories of these events where they originally happened, using a novel indoor positioning system.

Key messages:

  1. Performances are ephemeral, their heritage disappears, but theatre has an afterlife through the stories we tell about it.
  2. This app turns your smart phone into a device that allows you to tune into these stories. The Memory of Theatre will make present people and theatre events from the past, enabling encounters between past and present audiences, between the theatre now and then.
  3. The project will trial a novel indoor positioning system. This works like GPS, which can’t locate you when inside a building.

Tough questions:

  • Why spend public money on this (rather than theatre)?
  • What if I don't have a smart phone and I can't use technologies?
  • If I do the experience can I participate and leave a memory? Can I contribute?
  • REACT's been framed as enabling the transfer of scholarly research to the creative economy, developing projects with commercial   potential. What's the commercial potential and what are your plans to capitalise on it?

This also fed in to ‘work in progress’ presentations at the end of the session. Members of the Pervasive Media Studio were invited to sit in on these and everyone encouraged to ask challenging questions of each other to interrogate any assumptions in the work as it develops. I think these presentations spurred on each team for the final month as well as highlighting particular areas of crossover that they can tackle together. From the use of augmented reality mirrors in bar toilets to ‘I tweet dead people’ t-shirt slogans, the ideas are coming thick and fast. We just have to make them happen now.