Interactive Histories

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Abstract

What if the objects in the Museum of Islamic Art in Berlin could talk?

The exhibition will be restructured for 2019, for triple its size. Numerous projects are on their way. For my thesis, I collaborated with researchers from the project ‘Objects in Transfer. Museographical Concepts for the Display of Transfer Processes between the Near East and Europe’.

How to show the historic connections between cultures? What are engaging, and information-rich, but not overwhelming formats to access deeper information on particular objects? How to explore their specific contexts as well as their relation to other objects?

My design - Storytellers are tokens that represent different thematic tours through the exhibition. They are based on different objects from the exhibition and each have their own character, stories and tone of voice. Each tour opens up a new perspective on the exhibition, while retaining a digestable size.

Inspiration and Method

More than 4 million Muslims live in Germany today. But most people have little background knowledge in Islamic art or history - while Islam is a regular topic of heated debate. People come to the Museum of Islamic Art with today´s questions, ideas and expectations.

I used a participatory approach to the project, trying to bring different people together. What are visitors really interested in? What would people with roots in Islamic cultures like to show? And what can art historians tell through objects? I spoke with more than 40 people from different backgrounds. Exploring few objects in more depth often created a more interesting experience than seeing many things briefly, but requires rich sources of information.

I developed three series of physical or screen-based concept prototypes which were used as props for two workshops in the museum. Basic ideas from those concepts later merged into the concept of Storytellers.

Result

Storytellers are guides. They are small tokens that represent objects from the museum. Each object has its own character, topic and relationships to other objects. It will show you through the exhibition on its` individual tour. Different tours are designed for children, different levels of background knowledge and interests.

Storytellers are capacitive touch tokens that come to life through screen graphics. Placing your token on any screen in the exhibition will load its specific information. See how new artefacts relate to things you have already seen in time and space.

After your visit, you can keep the storyteller as a souvenier.

The result will open new perspectives to the museum, helping visitors to relate the objects on display to each other and their context, and tell engaging stories.