On 14 April 2012 the assorted members of the Curate the Collection group met for the first time at the National Maritime Museum. Jane Findlay, the National Maritime Museum’s digital participation officer has summarised the outcome of this introductory meeting in a recent email to whole group:
‘The session was an introduction to the project and a chance for people to get to know one another, the Museum and the space. The project will involve participants curating a display of historical photographs from the Museum’s collection in the Compass Lounge. This will involve accessing the Museum’s photographic collection both online and through a visit to the brass foundry, selecting images for display and interpreting them for visitors. The display space features 8 large photo frames for printed reproductions and 9 small digital photo frames for digital images. Through discussing each other’s interests and ideas for the project we have made a start in considering what we would like to display and to think of the reasons behind this. The workshops on 12 and 13 May will be structured around selecting final images and developing textual interpretation for the display’
For me personally, it was the first time I have visited Greenwich or the National Maritime Museum. I had no real expectations for the meeting apart from a desire to see how exhibitions are constructed in a museum space using both interactive content and user opinion/feedback.
Armed with my historical hat on I approached the meeting with increasing excitement. I spent the morning exploring Royal Greenwich and after being surrounded by Maritime buildings, pubs and boats (Cutty Shark) I was ready to begin debating. I was very encouraged by the diversity of personalities, ages and opinions amongst the Flickr group. I was able to hear each individuals motivations for joining the group and these varied explanations ranged from a passing interests in the local history of Greenwich to family ties with both the military and merchant Navies – all brought together by a mutual appreciation of Flickr and its communal spirit.
The breadth of individual interests certainly complicated our attempts to ascertain a common theme for our project. This was further complicated by the wealth of available archive material that we could have access to. Our resources include the Flickr Commons, The National Maritime Museum digitalised collection and a planned visit to the photographic archive at the Brass Founday.
As a group we were also introduced to ‘The Compass Lounge’ exhibition space and caught a tangible glimpse of our future interactive exhibition space. Marrying both digital and print photography in an interactive space may pose some interesting challenges for the group but I was again encouraged by the plethora of imaginative ideas.
We spent the rest of the session exploring the Flickr Commons and on-line NMM historical photographs collections.
I was also surprised to learn that only about 1% of the NMM’s photographic collection has been digitalised. If anything this project will hopefully be a reason to digitalise individual images that would not usually see the light of day outside of the NMM collection.
Next stop the Brass Foundry!
Summary of discussion Flickr Commons Project 14th April 2012
There was a lot of discussion about whether the selected photographs should reflect personal interests or whether there should be a target audience in mind given that the display would run throughout the summer, attracting diverse audiences for significant events such as the Diamond Jubilee and the London Olympics.
Most members of the group agreed that they would like the theme to be something that was not obvious and perhaps use photographs that were less viewed by museum audiences. Another popular idea was that the display should reflect the local history of Greenwich and surrounding areas. We spent the rest of the afternoon browsing images that reflected some of the themes that were suggested and members of the group began to select favourites for consideration at the following workshops.
The following list outlines some of the key themes that emerged from suggestions made by group members and might be useful to keep in mind when browsing through the collections on Flickr Commons and on the museum website over the course of the next few weeks:
- ‘Long Way From Home’ –the documentation of different locations, countries, nationalities etc. Another idea involved drawing upon the various road names and locations throughout London that reflected other countries, cultures and communities. For example, Canada Water, Jamaica Road, and road names that reflect coal-mining communities from the North East.
- Greenwich and Maritime Life – documenting local maritime history
- The River Thames – documenting how the river has changed over the last 100 years. Source photographs that are representative of the river for each decade?
- Shipbuilding and Boatbuilding
- Humour and fun – this suggestion from David was very popular and would be an opportunity to explore the collections from a different angle. This theme has the potential to relate to a diverse audience and could also overlap with some of the other suggested themes
- Ordinary Lives, ordinary people