This panel explored how digital platforms are being utilised to engage with young people and those in learning. From animating physical spaces to the use of onscreen platforms as a means of engagement, the panel will consider the ways and means in which digital technology can add another layer of interpretation to collections and broaden their appeal.

Jennifer Ross, Imperial War Museum

Since its opening to the public in April 2013 The Great Map has become a valuable asset to the National Maritime Museum. In this paper we share our experience and lessons learned about delivering collections via digital platforms in a physical space.

The Great Map is an ambitious project that set out to transform how visitors engage within the Museum’s largest open public space with both digital and analogue experiences. Since the launch we have learnt a huge amount about managing this large interactive space and how users explore and interact with it.

From the first phase of The Great Map we learned:

  1. What learning experiences users wanted and expect from visiting the museum
  2. Level of engagement from visitors
  3. Type of content that resulted in deeper engagement

Furthermore when evaluation was undertaken it was found the digital interactive was massively under utilised. The question became how we deliver digital content that is engaging?

The Museum took a new approach to commissioning a new app and explored methodologies from service design and agile. Working iteratively with development allowed us to:

  1. Trial various ways to use collections objects and images
  2. Test out scripts and content
  3. Respond to feedback on a bi-weekly bases
  4. Achieve a product that meets users’ needs

The museum created an augmented reality game called The Great Explorer. The concept was simple, to give users the experience of exploring the world and our collection on The Great Map.

What was achieved was a game whereby users learn by doing, not by reading passages and answering questions, but an experience that allows users to learn through play and discovery. The Great Explorer was much lighter in content, however achieved a deeper engagement with users compared to the original The Great Map App.

Andrew Payne, The National Archives

How do you convince 11 year olds that an 800 year old document written in illegible, bad Latin is the foundation of all liberal constitutional government? And why should they care anyway?

Medieval history has some inherent problems for teachers and students because accessing the documents that often inspire deeper study is so difficult to do when they are not legible. Not only are there barriers of text, palaeography, language and terminology but the conceptual framework of just about everything medieval is different to the present. Andrew Payne is Head of Education and Outreach at The National Archives and will discuss both the problems and the solutions that arose when the education team chose to create a new online resource for school students.

How can students engage with medieval texts in a meaningful way? How can they be motivated to work with these texts for a sustained period? And how can they produce extended written outputs without close teacher guidance? Bring your laptop, tablet, phablet or mobile and be prepared to pore over fascinating medieval documents; pose awkward questions to outraged monarchs, stroppy barons, supercilious bishops and one very confused constitutional lawyer; and dig around the murky political horse-trading which led to the emergence of present day Parliament.

Meghan Goodeve, The Courtauld Institute of Art & Gallery

Last term The Courtauld Institute of Art’s public programmes team were excited to welcome twelve young people from across London and the UK to our gallery and specialist college for a celebration event. This was after being shortlisted from 120 participants in our pilot digital project Click, Connect, Construct: 16-19 Student Visual Essay Competition. Using Pinterest, students were tasked with creating a visual essay based on and around an artwork from The Courtauld Gallery collection. This encouraged young people to explore the use of digital technologies to research and display their findings around our world-famous paintings, sculptures, prints, and drawings.

This paper will examine this project from its conception to its un-published evaluation. The project was developed in partnership with FE and sixth form tutors, and was centered on the twentieth-century art historian Aby Warburg. Pinterest mirrors Warburg’s Mnemosyne Atlas – a collection of archival images collated to create an academic narrative on physical boards – so it provided a sound starting point for young people to consider how art history could be based in both the visual and the digital. Pinterest allowed this by both collating images digitally and learning to edit and select from the multitude of artworks that are available on the internet. The paper will hope to draw out how this academic beginning could, through social media platforms, extend and reach the widest range of young people possible.

Following this, the paper will scrutinise the un-published evaluation, which proves students developed visual literacy, research skills, knowledge and confidence. This was developed through several workshops where they learnt the difference between researching from books and sourcing information online: for example, what websites can be trusted? What image is a true reproduction of the original? What are the issues of copyright? Ultimately, students were given a tool for developing their ideas outside of traditional constraints of essay writing but that was still academically challenging. In doing so, this paper will showcase how a specialist art history college and art gallery can use digital engagement to reach our widening participation aim of ‘art history for all’.