New exhibition exploring 'The Participatory Museum' concept

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An innovative new exhibition opens at Europe House today, featuring photographs from The Imperial Museums with annotations giving a wealth of information about each image, gathered by a series of crowdsourcing events organised by Historypin.

You can see a preview of the images here.

It runs from 3rd Dec to 7th Dec at Europe House, 32 Smith Square, London, SW1P 3EU. Open from 10am-6pm.

The photographs are from the Q Series, a remarkable collection of 120,000 images showing life during the First World War, on land, at sea, in the air and at home.

The collection includes material from a wide range of sources, including the Ministry of Information, War Office and Foreign Office, newspaper photography from outlets such as the Daily Mirror and Daily Mail as well as images illustrating the war efforts of France, Germany, Italy and the USA.

Beyond the original captions associated with each image, much of the contextual data and narrative around this collection hasn’t been previously gathered or recorded.

Over the summer of 2012, the Historypin teamed up with the Imperial War Museum to start to harness the capacity and knowledge of the crowd to gather this information. Through a series of events, drawing on the knowledge and enthusiasm of many different people, from school students, to military experts, to archivists and curators, we have uncovered a few of the mysteries of the Q Series. It was incredibly humbling to see the amount of knowledge, passion and desire to help that filled the room during these sessions.

Adding data to First World War Photos

You can see all the photographs discussed on the Imperial War Museums Channel, many of which have had their data improved or their location identified following these enlightening sessions.

The findings from the sessions have been used to annotate the photographs to create fascinating layered images showing a wealth of information. This exhibition provides a glimpse of how participation can bring collections to life and open up new understanding, through comments and annotations.

The exhibition runs until Friday at Europe House, 32 Smith Square. London, SW1P 3EU.

Tonight, Chief Execs Nick Stanhope of Historypin and Nick Poole of the Collections Trust will be opening the exhibition and speaking about how cultural institutions are involving their communities more as collaborators and participants.

Last summer, in their article on ‘The Participatory Museum‘ Nick and Nick discussed ideas around how ‘end-users’ can become much more involved with the whole duration of museum projects. They painted the powerful potential this could have for engaging audiences, connecting online and offline worlds and putting museums at the heart of communities.

Through Historypin’s work, we’ve seen loads of great instances of conversations about historical content – be it online among history geeks on forum threads, museum tagging games or amongst grandpas having a pint in the pub.

Our aim is to use technology to capture the best from all these worlds and create a tool that works for both analog and digital crowd-sourcing communities, translating conversations into useful structures to be explored and augmented by others. Through this innovative approach, we hope more people will be inspired to come together around personal, local and cultural collections. So keep an eye out as we continue to delve deeper into participatory collections.