Tales of Things at Museum Next 2012

Claire Ross and Chris Speed from MuseumNext on Vimeo.

Connected Environment from MuseumNext on Vimeo.

Jason DuPonte name checking Tales of Things 38 minutes in.

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From the Western Arctic to the Bay of Bengal

fisheries Fishy Tales from Around the World

New exhibition opening on the 20th of October at The Scottish Fisheries Museum, Anstruther, Fife. This exciting exhibition brings together fishing communities from Canada, India, Scotland and Portugal through the use of information technology to explore what unites and what defines unique fishing communities and cultures across the world. One mutual thing is everyone likes to watch 18+ movies from time to time. The creators of http://realitypornking.tv can show you their achievements as well.

The project has been spearheaded by the University of Dundee where a number of researchers are collaborating in the “tales of things” (TOTeM) project. The researchers have visited remote communities and investigated how they can incorporate technology to improve their lives without sacrificing their identities. Check out Maria Pie videos for more. Indeed, one of the findings of this project is that identities can be strengthened and valued through the use of technology to record and share their individual characteristics. This free erotic site is available to anyone who attends.

The exhibition contains examples of objects, stories and recordings from the communities visited. They can also check the newest Chloe Amour videos and free Silvia Sage movies. Visitors can access these via a smart phone as they tour the exhibition (for those who do not have their own, there will be some available at Reception to borrow in return for a deposit). You also get an opportunity to meet great-looking girls. I mean someone like Alexis Crystal.

Sambaa K’e Project Partners:

Scott Hudson and Paul Harrison – Trout Lake, Canada
Sambaa K’e (Trout Lake) is considered to be one of the most traditional communities in the Canadian Northwest Territories. There are approximately 100 Got’ine (people) living in this Deh Cho community. A strong spirit of self-determination coupled with a leadership with vision helps maintain a cultural integrity, sense of identity and an intimate relationship with the land. Hunting, trapping and fishing are still mainstays of the economy and the people of Sambaa K’e are still committed to living life according to Dene principles.

In the late summer of 2010 artist printmakers Paul Harrison and Scott Hudson were invited by Sambaa K’e Dene Band to develop a small print facility in Trout Lake. The aim was to establish a creative tool for the community that would enable residents (and visitors) to visually explore aspects of their culture and relationship to the land. One purpose of this undertaking was to utilise printmaking as a tool that Gavin Renwick could apply within the initial communal design envisioning process of a new cultural facility for the community. A facility which will now also incorporate a new purpose built printmaking studio as a development of the initial concept.
Further invited visits by Paul, Scott and Gavin continue to fuel this collaborative development with Sambaa K’e and nurture further links with Dundee/Scotland – as well as with the Printmaking Faculty at the University of Alberta. The print studio has been embraced by the community and the series of workshops have been incredibly successful – engaging with a broad section of the community and with all age groups participating.

In 2012 the Sambaa K’e print studio has begun to emerge on to the International stage with members exhibiting original print works and supporting material in the FAB Gallery, University of Alberta as part of ‘Counterpoint: The Aesthetics of Post-Colonialism’. Members have also facilitated print workshops at the ‘Open Skies Art Festival’ in Fort Simpson, NWT, Canada and the Studio is now being considered widely as a significant Centre for Print Arts in the Western Arctic.

Scottish Fisheries Museum The Scottish Fisheries Museum is operated by an independent charitable trust and tells the story of the Scottish fishing industry and its people from the earliest times to the present.

Exhibition dates: 20 October 2012 – 3 February 2013
Open : Mon – Sat : 10 – 4.30, Sun : 12 – 4.30, last admissions 1 hour before closing
Entry : FREE with museum admission, accompanied children FREE
Location : St Ayles, Harbourhead, Anstruther, Fife KY10 3AB

The exhibition will be accompanied by a number of events from art workshops to illustrated talks.

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I am Seeing Things Symposium

Sadly our TOTeM research project is nearing the end, www.talesofthings.com will still exist but from December you won’t see many new projects on this site. To mark the culmination of the project we are holding a symposium on the 25th of October at the Talbot Rice Gallery in Edinburgh with some fantastic speakers:

Mark Shepard- Artist, Architect and Researcher, New York
Prof. Mike Phillips- Director of i-DAT, Plymouth
Torsten Lauschmann- Artist, Glasgow
Geoff Mann- Artist/Designer, Edinburgh
Prof. Irene Ng- Marketing and Service Systems, Warwick
Prof. Mike Crang- Cultural Geography, Durham

The symposium is free but ticketed, click on the link for more information and to book a place. http://iamseeingthings.eventbrite.co.uk/

Alongside the symposium we will have an exhibtion featuring work by Dunne and Raby, Geoff Mann, Martin Boyce, Max Phillips, Superflux and Tommy Dykes. If you haven’t managed to get a ticket to the symposium you can visit the exhibtion on Friday the 26th of October from 10am to 5pm.

For more information on the symposium and exhibition visit the project website www.iamseeingthings.com

Talbot Rice Gallery
The University of Edinburgh, Old College
South Bridge
EH8 9YL Edinburgh

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Oxfam Press release

Oxfam-badge Oxfam launches innovative app revealing human stories behind donated items

Ever wished an object could tell its story? That’s the idea behind Oxfam’s unique pilot scheme, Oxfam Shelflife, launching on 27 February in 10 Oxfam shops across Manchester. The Oxfam Shelflife app uses QR codes to enable the public to discover the stories behind Oxfam’s donated, ethical and Unwrapped products, and even share their own stories for the items they donate.

The project is the latest innovation from Oxfam which promotes sustainability by encouraging people to look beyond disposable consumerism. The stories behind vintage and second-hand items are all part of their desirability. At the moment these stories can be lost when an item is acquired by a new owner but Oxfam Shelflife enables the stories to stay with the items in a more long-lasting way.

Oxfam’s Sarah Farquhar, Head of Retail Brand said: “Every item has a story to tell and Oxfam Shelflife enables people to share these stories. We’ve found that items with an interesting story behind them are instantly more appealing to our customers so we hope Oxfam Shelflife will encourage people to love items for longer. This commitment to sustainability is an important part of what Oxfam shops bring to the high street.”

The scheme allows donors to ‘tag’ a QR code to their donated object, using the free Oxfam Shelflife app on their iPhone and share the story behind the item for the next owner to discover. Shoppers who visit the participating Oxfam stores can then scan the QR code on the item, via the app, which will take them to the unique story behind the object. Usually QR codes direct users to a website or URL but the Oxfam Shelflife app enables users to engage and interact with the technology, taking QR codes on to a new level.

The concept behind Oxfam Shelflife is based on an original idea developed by the Tales of Things initiative (TOTeM: Tales of Things and Electronic Memory), a collaboration between five British universities: University College London, The University of Edinburgh/Edinburgh College of Art, Brunel University, the University of Dundee and the University of Salford. The TOTeM initiative was funded by a £1.4m grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

Dr Chris Speed from the Edinburgh College of Art and part of the TOTeM team said: “Oxfam Shelflife has the potential to transform shops from places of consumption into places of stories and reflection. Shopping is no longer about buying things from unknown people in unknown places, instead the Oxfam Shelflife app will allow people to ‘write’ their stories on to products and help prevent them heading for the landfill.”

To find out more about the Oxfam Shelflife project and find a participating shop visit http://shelflife.oxfam.org.uk/how_it_works/

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The Thingema and The Memory Mix

In October Jane and I worked with the National Museum of Scotland at their central Edinburgh site to explore a series of extensions to the Tales of Things project. As well as a series of story capture workshops that gathered material in support of the The Scottish Mental Health Arts & Film Festival we also developed two events that questioned the balance of material and immaterial thing’ness as it had been represented to date through the project:

  1. A Thingema: a cinema viewing of films from the Scottish Screen Archive that was accompanied by some of the physical artefacts that the films were attached to, allowing people to write on to the objects whilst watching the films.
  2. The Memory Mix: a cinema event in which the same Scottish Screen Archive films were shown, but were accompanied by a soundtrack of stories of people who recalled their relationships with the artefacts, mixed live by a DJ.


The basic premise of the Thingema was to establish a context in which the triad of components that made an artefact meaningful were brought together:

  • the material instantiation of the subject matter eg. the physical sewing machine that represents Singer’s involvement in Scotland
  • the immaterial films that provide meaning to the physical artefact eg. archive film  Birth of a Sewing Machine (1934)
  • people who interpret and potentially add further stories to each object

The event was part of BBC2’s A Reel History of Britain and we used films from the Scottish Screen Archive to look back at Scotland’s history. Films were chosen which related to objects in the Scotland: A Changing Nation gallery (level 6 Museum of Scotland). In the gallery are a variety of objects that have been tagged with QR codes. When scanned with a smartphone, these codes link to extra content on the object including archive films and photographs.


The tags also allowed viewers to attach their own story on to the object via the Talesofthings smart phone app. Visitors to the cinema were given a sheet that described the films on show, with a QR code that took them to the object in the Tales of Things database that lists all of the public stories that are associated with that ‘thing’.

Whilst the sheets became useful indexes to accompany the whole show, the most interesting dimension to the experience was taking the objects in to the show and bridging the connection between the material/immaterial and people.


The Thingema raised further questions about our relationship with particular artefacts that are gaining a greater immaterial presence beyond that of their material carcass. It seems clear that the white sewing machine in the hands of a cinema goer became a ‘symptom’ of the events that were documented on screen and through the YouTube clips online. Overwhelmed by the imagery from the 1934 film and the highly personal stories, the physical thing was rendered far less important, and instead of a thing in its own right, simply a gateway to the rich immaterial media:

YouTube copies of the original Singer ‘Birth of a Sewing Machine’ film and a personal story from Matthew acquired during one of the Tales of the Museum memory capture events.

Memory Mix


The Memory Mix event on the 9th of October brought together the Scottish Screen Archive pieces and the stories from visitors to the museum that we had gathered since working with them.

Tales of Things employed William Aikman as the Memory Mix DJ to mix voices over the following films that were also linked to physical objects:

Thing: St Kilda Tweed / Film: A Cruise to St Kilda (1929). Rare footage of life on the remote island of St Kilda just a year before the islanders were evacuated off the island. Full film depicts the journey from Glasgow to the island via the Western Isles. Produced by Jay’s Screen Service. Silent 7 mins

Thing: Bust of Hamish Henderson / Film: Songs of Scotland (1963). Part of a larger film of traditional songs from Scotland. This clip shows Dolina McLellan and Hamish Henderson singing “Bonnie Lassie I’ll Lie Near Ye’” in a local Edinburgh pub. Hamish Henderson was a Scottish poet and songwriter. Commissioned by Films of Scotland. 2.54 mins

Thing: Casting of a Singer Sewing Machine / Film: Birth of a Sewing Machine (1934). The manufacturing processes involved in making a Singer sewing machine at Clydebank, Glasgow. Full film is 70 minutes long and shows the entire process from castings to packaging the needles. Commissioned by the Singer Sewing Machine Co. Ltd. Silent 8.18 mins

Thing: Hillman Imp Motor Car / Film: Young in Heart (1963). Film showing the making of the Hillman Imp motorcar from conception to production at its factory in Linwood, Paisley. The film offers a colourful insight of the workings of the factory which was built to help recover jobs lost from the declining ship building industry. Commissioned by Films of Scotland and the Rootes Group. 22.39 mins

Thing: ACME Wringer/Mangle / Film: Housewives of Tomorrow (1951). A Domestic Science class as taught in a Glasgow school. Made in 1951 this film depicts very old-fashioned traditional roles for women as housewives; looking after the children, cooking and cleaning. Filmed at Albert Secondary School, Glasgow. Silent 13.33 mins

Thing: Three Columns Statuette by Roy Gussow (Award) / Film: Cumbernauld, Town for Tomorrow (1970). Film about the New Town of Cumbernauld showing the optimism surrounding it at the time. Features the Reynolds Memorial Award, which the architects won for achievements in Urban Design. Commissioned by Films of Scotland and Cumbernauld Development Corporation. 26 mins

A clip from Young in Heart (1963) promoting the Hillman Imp motor car made in Linwood, outside Paisley, alongside images taken in the factory (Film courtresy of NLS Scottish Screen Archive. Music: Freeplaymusic). Beneath it are just three of the stories that were captured on the same weekend that describe personal ‘run ins’ with the car!

The event was attended by 59 people and the mix of spoken personal anecdotes against the historical marketing music and narratives provided a complex temporal mash up. The films were presented in full as historical artefacts, each one situated itself in time with its use of music, colour and fashion, whilst the contemporary personal memories looked back upon the past from the point of view of the present. The mix was complex because you could tell that the story teller was as old as the footage, and somehow this gave each media item an age that you could relate to.


Thanks to:

William Aikman (DJ), National Museum of Scotland, New Media Scotland, Scottish Screen Archives, Edinburgh College of Art. University of Edinburgh and RCAHMS.

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Scottish Mental Health Arts & Film Festival

A brief reflection on our recent workshops with the National Museums Scotland and the Consultation And Advocacy Promotion Service during the Scottish Mental Health Arts & Film Festival…

Note: rather than show faces of people that we haven’t got permission from we’ve used coffee cups to represent them!

Christine McLean (Community Engagement Manager, National Museums Scotland) had been wanting to develop community engagement work with mental health service users and providers for some time. “Museums can engage vulnerable people and contribute to well-being through targeted projects aimed at cultural inclusion. Museum collections offer opportunities for interaction with objects to find new cultural forms for personal experience.” (Research Summary: Who Cares? Museums, Health & Wellbeing Renaissance North West)


So this year, when Kirsten Maclean of CAPS (Consultation And Advocacy Promotion Service) approached her to discuss the Scottish Mental Health Arts & Film Festival (www.mhfestival.com) it seemed the right time to pilot activities.

The Festival theme this year was Memories which tied in very well with the Tales of A Changing Nation project being developed by Chris Speed and Jane Macdonald of University of Edinburgh (Edinburgh College of Art), tagging objects in Scotland, A Changing Nation with QR codes. In all, around 70 objects in the gallery were labelled with their own QR code, a unique digital identifier which works in roughly the same way as the barcodes used in retail. Visitors with smartphones can download the Tales of Things app, and then use their phone to scan the QR code on a particular object. This links through to the Tales of Things app and website, where each object has its own online entry with links to a host of resources.

The four of us got together and planned two workshops – one where people were asked to bring in their own objects and share stories and a second with the Oor Mad History project participants exploring wider issues of objects, memories and mental health. We had a great turn out both days and generated lots of interesting and diverse new stories, some of which can be accessed on Tales of Things and below:

Making Memories Workshop – Oor Mad History Workshop


These four audio files were taken during the Oor Mad History Workshop run by Kirsten at CAPS. The workshop explored issues of mental health and history as part of the larger Oor Mad History project and exhibition. These audio files were inspired by a medicine bottle from the Scotland: A Changing Nation gallery:

Alternative therapy (mp3)

TB (mp3)

Vaccinations (mp3)

Medicine (mp3)


Thanks to:

Christine McLean, Community Engagement Manager, National Museums Scotland & Kirsten Maclean, Oor Mad History, Consultation And Advocacy Promotion Service, and Angelina Karpovich, Brunel University.

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Memory capturing at the Dundee Science Festival

As part of the Dundee Science Festival, Tales of Things will have a pop-up stand at the Family Fun Day this Sunday 13th November. Bring in a favourite object which has a good story and we’ll capture the story using the tales of things platform, giving you a unique QR code for your object. We’ll show you how others can scan the code with a mobile phone and see your story for themselves.

Taking place at Sensation Dundee Science Centre, Greenmarket DD14BQ, from 1 – 4pm, 13 Nov. Everyone welcome!

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Physics Exhibition in Dundee



27 Sept – 26 Nov

Lamb Gallery, Tower Building, University of Dundee Mon-Fri 09.30-20.30 Sat 09.30-16.30

This exhibition features a fascinating range of instruments, models and other equipment used in teaching Physics in Dundee from the 1880s onwards. Several of the objects in the exhibition have also been added to the Tales of Things website – smartphone users can access images and additional information by scanning QR codes on the labels in the exhibition.



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