Museum fixer-uppers

February 26th, 2011

It begins:

You must be the museum fixer-uppers. Have you come here to help us?
Great! ‘cos we really need your help – we’ve got a very big problem…
What’s happened is that for years and years and years the people who work in the museum just stopped coming to work and there was no-one to look after the museum any more. Can you imagine what happened to all the things in the museum?

That’s right: as time went by the dust started building up higher and higher and the exhibits started to get a bit crumbly and bits started to fall off them. All the bits got all muddled up and now we don’t know what bit has come from where, what the bits are made from or how they all fit together.

The boss has called in the museum fixer-uppers (that’s us) and asked us to sort out the mess. Will you help us? Please?

Phew! ‘Cos we really need your help!

What cool things have you seen in the museum today?
Can you imagine what would happen if no-one looked after it for ages and it started falling to bits? What bits would fall off it? What would it look like?

Could you make those bits for us please and then we can give them all a label so we don’t get muddled up again?

Excellent! Get to it!

Fixer-uppers at work

Miscellaneous bits and bobs found in the museum amongst the dust

Great work from everyone!

All the bits left with us will be on display for the next week or so – you’re welcome to come and collect your work after that if you would like (maybe contact the City Gallery team to let them know to put it in a safe place).

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Hugemongous mind map, day 4

February 24th, 2011

Here’s the mind map at the end of day 4:

Hugemongous mind map

We’ve also got some good extensions coming off with some photos and makes from the different investigations triggered by the mind map (don’t forget the trail maps on the other side too!):

Hugemongous mind map extensions

Tomorrow will be our last day of investigating, although I believe the HQ might stay in place for a while longer so you can come and have a look at the work done.

For Friday’s investigation we’ll be looking at how things might get put back together again if, in a museum with no assistants to make sure we all followed the rules, all the exhibits got all dismantled and jumbled up.

Will we be able to figure out what all the bits are? Will we know how things work? Will we be able to decipher that ancient instruction manual written in hieroglyphics? Join us between 11:00 and 1:00 and/or 2:00 and 4:00 to find out!

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TOP SECRET trails!

February 24th, 2011

Today the MoR Inspectors made their own TOP SECRET trails around the museum and art gallery building. This was in response to the potential loss of guided tours if the staff went on strike.



The Inspectors were asked to decide what the 3 most awesome things in the whole building were – the things they would really want their friends to know about. If they had come straight up to the MoR headquarters without looking around the museum first then we equipped them with a clipboard and sent them out on a reconnaissance mission.

We gave everyone a special map of the building and asked them to draw on them the journey people should make from the MoR HQ in order to see the cool things.




The results were ace with some great selections and ways of showing them on the maps. In order to keep the maps TOP SECRET we put them up at the back of the HQ so only MoR Inspectors would be able to see them. Inspectors had to memorise the trails and then go out and find the things on them.

All the TOP SECRET museum trails kept safe at the back of the MoR HQ

In order that Inspectors could be sure that they had found the correct items, each trail also had some accompanying markers that were placed next to the objects shown on the map. Since these were TOP SECRET trails we didn’t want to put the markers at normal height so normal people could see them. Oh no. We sneakily put the markers on the ground so that only Inspectors looking for secret trail markers would see them.

Going around the museum and art gallery at the end of the day, we spotted these markers:

Nice work guys!

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Hugemongous mind map, day 3

February 23rd, 2011

Here we have the hugemongous mind map at the end of Wednesday:

Getting bigger!

Two girls came in from the rain and spent a long time adding ideas to the hugemongous mind map. I challenged them to build as long a chain as possible, taking it in turns to bat responses to eachother’s ideas. I didn’t get to look at it until after they had gone, but nice work ladies! We’ll be taking some of your ideas as the starting point for tomorrow’s investigations.

Signposts, and the knowledge passed on between kids.

Starting from a concern that if the museum assistants went on strike there would be no guided tours, they got on to thinking about signposting and knowledge being passed between the kids who could direct their own learning independently. Ace!

Tomorrow we will be investigating alternative tours around the museum, designed by little people for little people. Inspectors will be deciding on their own trails through the building, with maps and clues for those in the know.

This is going to be an interesting test to find out how much attention the big people pay to the things happening closer to the ground. Come and join us for The Lowdown!

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Memory machines!

February 23rd, 2011

One of the making tables in a lull over lunch time

The MoR HQ full of busy Inspectors during a making session

So, today’s investigation was all about the idea of making memory machines: if the museum staff were ever to not come in to work, and if there was no-one around to explain what the things in the museums and galleries are, would that mean that we would all eventually forget about things that happened in the past?

We weren’t that happy about that possibility, so the Inspectors designed, made and used some rather marvellous memory machines to ensure that the really important stuff in the building would never get forgotten.

It was really interesting chatting to people about the things they thought were important to remember. The ‘bouncy castle’ and the dinosaurs were understandably top of a lot of lists, but there were also many less obvious choices as well as a few brave Inspectors who set out to remember everything!

The designs were all fab and I was also treated to some very detailed explanations of their construction and how they work. In order to give you a flavour of the inventiveness of the Inspectors, below is a tiny selection of the memory machines made:

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Hugemongous mind map, day 2

February 22nd, 2011

So, here’s the hugemongous mind map at the end of day two. We mostly spent the day making nose trumpets, but our mind map also grew a little bit.

Hugemongous mind map at the end of Tuesday

Here are the two cards that we’ll be taking as our cue for Wednesday’s investigations:

If there were no museum assistants, how would people teach us?

If there wasn't anyone to teach us would we forget about the past?

We think it’s important that the MoR takes steps to protect us from forgetting about the past, so for Wednesday’s investigations we’re going to be making memory machines and seeing if we can find a way of preserving what we know.

We’ll be running drop-in sessions for you to come and help us figure out how we’re going to do this – 11am to 1pm and again 2pm to 4pm. See you tomorrow!

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Nose trumpets!

February 22nd, 2011

From the hugemongous mind map yesterday came the ideas that if there were no museum assistants coming to work at the museums then there might not be anyone to switch the lights on and everything would therefore be in the dark and we wouldn’t be able to see the paintings. Following on from this someone suggested that we might smell the paintings instead of looking at them. This came with the added bonus of not breaking the “do not touch” rule – excellent!

For our investigations today we explored the idea of using nose trumpets – contraptions to help us smell better. (A bit like ear trumpets, but different…)

The MoR headquarters was a hive of activity for the 4 hours we were open, with many, many Inspectors making fully-functional nose trumpets.

Nose trumpet manufacture

Nose trumpet manufacture

Here is a tiny selection of the results:

After making their nose trumpets the Inspectors then went out to explore the museum and see what different smells they could hunt down. Several people took clipboards and paper with them so they could record their findings. Here’s a nice range of smells from Inspector Anna:

A list of smells found and examined in the museum building

Being stationed back at the nose trumpet factory I didn’t get to see much of them being put into use, however there was at least one sighting of nose trumpets over on the other side of town!

Inspector Joshua also shared some great photos with our project Flickr account and we have this one of him out and about with his trumpet and clipboard:

Inspector Joshua. Ministry of Rules.

Thanks to Joshua and to everyone else who joined us at the MoR today – we’re really looking forward to tomorrow’s investigations!

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Hugemongous mind map, day 1

February 21st, 2011

It took us a while before we got to start work on the hugemongous mind map, what with all the HQ decorations and that, but it’s starting to take shape…

The hugemongous mind map. (Before it started getting hugemongous.)

Here’s the scenario we’re using as our starting point:

It is the year 2019.

Museums and art galleries have mostly survived the funding cuts of the early part of the decade, yet things are still turbulent. The buildings are as they were, but the staff are restless.

Ongoing industrial disputes have resulted in museum and gallery assistants throughout the country refusing to go to work. Whilst the places they used to work in remain open, there are no longer members of staff in each room to enforce rules such as “do not touch”.

What might happen as a result?

Our first wave of responses all felt that this would be not-so-good, with people worried that all the museum artefacts might get broken.

Mind map and ideas getting bigger

After a later wave of activity, not only had we broadened our range of first responses to include some more positive reactions, but we’d also started building some interesting chains of ideas.

I made a note of some of them before leaving for the day:

  • All the lights might get switched off.
    • You could get up closer to the pictures and smell them as well.
    • You could feel the paintings.
    • Children could play in the dark (but they might bump heads).
  • If things got broken
    • Museums might switch to being places where you looked at things from the inside, rather than the outside.
    • Who would fix the exhibits?
    • How would engineers know how to fix ancient things – especially if the instruction manuals were written in hieroglyphics!
  • You could have lots of children on the bouncy castle (Mungo Thomson’s Skyspace Bouncehouse).
  • You could look at the art whilst talking to your friends.

I think we’re going to take our cue for tomorrow’s activities from that cluster of thoughts about experiencing museums and galleries through different senses…

I’m not yet 100% sure of how we’ll structure the day, but we might switch from a drop-in format to some hour-long sessions with a fixed group of Inspectors. Something will be happening between 11am and 4pm (with a lunchbreak somewhere near the middle) – come to the MoR headquarters at the back of the Play Ground gallery to find out what the situation is.

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Sneaky signs

February 21st, 2011

For Monday’s afternoon session we made some signs for some more creative rules and instructions that we thought we’d like to see in museums and galleries instead of the usual “do not touch”.

Everything is Made: a book cover designed by Bob and Roberta Smith.

We took some design inspiration from the Bob and Roberta Smith paintings in the gallery and produced our hand-made signs on thick cardboard (we didn’t have any wood).

Once we’d made 20-30 of these signs we challenged ourselves to find homes for them somewhere in the New Walk building. We didn’t know if the museum assistants in the other rooms would be on our side or not: would they help us or try and stop us? We decided the best approach might be to try and be sneaky and not be seen by anyone.

Sneaky sign in situ

Reminded of our Inspector’s promises a) to not cause harm to any thing, b) to not cause harm to any one and c) to be AWESOME! we spread out around the building.

Apart from a few of the Inspectors reporting feeling “a bit weird”, all went smoothly and soon Inspectors were challenging each other to find their signs, or to find as many as possible (one team reported finding 20!).

Secretary Lucy and I went for a wander after the MoR had shut for the day. Here are some of the sneaky signs we found:

Hop past this art work

Look up!

Skip on the spot

Please touch me. Don't be scared!

Skip past this picture


Good work, Inspectors!

We left the signs where we found them, so if you’re in the museum over the next couple of days keep your eyes peeled in case you can find some too!

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Setting up the MoR headquarters

February 21st, 2011

We can’t be expected to do some awesome investigations without an awesome headquarters, so we spent Monday morning getting our space set up the way we wanted it.

Our first Inspector decided we needed a proper place to put photos of all the MoR staff, so he kindly set about making a sign for an Inspectors’ Gallery. This got filled up through the day as more and more people decided they had what it takes to work for the MoR.

New recruits for the Ministry of Rules proudly showing off their ID badges having successfully taken the MoR pledge.

By lunchtime we had also acquired a variety of signs, instructions, a clock, an investigations van, a secret code and much more…

Inspector-generated stuff!

A team of Inspectors work on a sign.

MoR HQ full of Inspectors working industriously.

By the end of the two sessions we’d pretty much filled all the wall space… Someone described the HQ as feeling like a laboratory – as good a description as any!

MoR HQ at the end of Monday

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