Reflections on Object Dialogue Boxes at the Imperial War Museum

Here is a post by Abigail Tripp from Happy Museum Commission at The Cinema Museum –  Creative Community Curators

I just had the most amazing session at the Imperial War Museum about object dialogue boxes. They are amazing and perfect for what the Creative Community Curators want to do The Cinema Museum.  They want to build a Cabinet of Curiosities and fill it with unusual objects from the collection. However objects are precious and vulnerable, and deteriorate  if you allow too many people to touch and handle them.  Also they carry their own baggage and story, they are what they are. This is where object dialogue boxes come in. They are bespoke objects, inspired by a collection, an exhibition, a museum or a gallery and are ambiguous, compound objects especially created to stimulate conversation. They open the museum, provide a key to an exhibition, act as a compass and above all stimulate creativity. They provoke debate and discussions in themselves and then when taken around the museum, provide a focus through which to re-imagine an exhibition you’ve seen before or show you a way through a new gallery.

We had objects designed to relate to the Lord Ashcroft gallery containing the stories of the people who’ve been awarded the Victoria or the George cross. So we chose an object and then took it with us to the gallery. I saw the gallery in a whole new light. I’d been there before and had felt overwhelmed and worn out by all the stories. Previously I had not really understood the gallery and its layout, which is not by conflict but by what the medals were awarded for, e.g. Leadership.

Our object was a small shovel with an alarm clock in the scoop that had no clock face. It led us to a bomb disposal soldier called Olef Schmidt, who de-activated over 70 bombs in Afghanistan before one killed him. We connected with him because they use small shovel to dig around the bombs, are up against time and we think of bombs as ticking. Also he used to wear and IPod and listen to music to help his concentration and block out sounds, his iPod is in the display.

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