Making an exhibition – thankfully not of oneself

All the best ideas start with a good lunch, and so it is with this one.

Some time ago, my colleagues Jacky MacBeath, Rachel Hosker, Melissa Highton and I were mulling over lunch in the Art College cafe as to what we might do to celebrate the centenary of women first winning the right to vote. Jacky and Rachel already have a packed exhibitions schedule to organise, a museum to run, and internationally significant archives to look after. We hit upon the idea of doing something with a substantial digital element, possibly building on the work coming out of the Vote100 themed editathons that Ewan McAndrew, our Wikimedian in Residence, had been running.

Some further mulling and looping in some of the design thinking of Stewart Cromar in our Interactive Content team we came up with the idea of a hybrid exhibition – part digital, part physical with content flowing between those spaces. It’s a bit of an experimental idea for us, but luckily we have an Innovation fund that we can apply to each year for modest sums to support trying new things.

Our (successful) pitch:

This is a joint project between Learning, Teaching and Web and Library & University Collections  colleagues to support work on an innovative exhibition and related series of events celebrating 100 years of women’s suffrage. The outputs will be a virtual online exhibition including a customised interactive digital timeline, complemented by a small physical exhibition in the Library, and a series of related events including Wikipedia editathons, and a celebration in December – the month in which women could first vote.

We have been running a series of Wikipedia editathons during 2018 related to the Vote100 campaign which have created new articles related to the suffrage campaign, and also identified existing articles that have a connection to Edinburgh. Colleagues within the University have contributed to Vote100 events, most notably Processions 2018, where the banner created by ECA colleagues led the procession through the streets of Edinburgh. We have also identified a limited, but highly significant number of items in the University Collections which are relevant to Vote100.

This project will curate these physical and digital artefacts into a hybrid exhibition drawing on a diverse pool of talent from across LTW and L&UC. It will create new outputs in the form of Wikipedia articles and a Histropedia timeline and draw those digital artefacts back into the physical exhibition by making the interactive timeline available on a “digital table” in the Main Library foyer.

The innovative elements that we wish to experiment with are the blend of physical and digital resources; using Wikimedia resources as part of exhibitions; using Wikimedia resources to showcase our Collections to a global audience; using internal digital design resources to support exhibitions.

Our objectives:

  • To tell the story of the Women’s suffrage campaign and the Vote100 celebrations, particularly highlighting University of Edinburgh connections, through interactive online digital resources and display of physical items from the Collections.
  • Use online digital resources to widen access to our Vote100 exhibition to those beyond Edinburgh.
  • Develop new ways of working that establish a template for how Wikimedia activities and ISG digital design resources can be used to support and promote exhibitions; how resources generated by Wikimedia activities can be incorporated into exhibitions; and how our Collections can be showcased to a global audience through Wikimedia resources.
  • Support the University commitment to equality and diversity by telling the women’s suffrage story for Edinburgh, and making it available to as wide a potential audience as possible, not limited by physical location.

We’ve been developing this idea for a few months now and this morning we met to discuss drop dead dates for getting content completed, the date of our opening night and our guest list. It’s all coming together nicely

A solid shout out has to go to Navino Evans here too, who has been working on a customised Histropedia timeline for us. If you want a sample of the kind of magic you can pay him to develop have a look at this World War I example.

A few weeks time and we’ll be ready to reveal all.

(Flora Drummond at WSPU meeting. LSE Library [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons)

3 thoughts on “Making an exhibition – thankfully not of oneself

    1. Thanks @sheila and @frances – it’s been a fun little project to be involved in, though in fairness a lot of the hard work has been done by colleagues – Ewan and Stewart in my team and Rachel and Kirsty in the Library. I’ve also learned loads about how my colleagues who run exhibitions work and I’m in awe of them!

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