Sound Maps in the 21st Century: Where Do We Go From Here?

Sound maps are boring. Why? I would argue it’s because they’ve become stuck in a rut that began when the idea of ‘sound map’ became synonymous with online, Google API-based or other forms of point-and-click, CD-ROM era interface design. If we want sound maps to become less boring, this needs to stop. But how do we as sound artists (or would-be ‘sound cartographers’) break free of the point-and-click model? Continue reading

Film Review: Francofonia

“All museums must be prepared for war,” states director Alexander Sokurov during his ongoing narration of his latest film, Francofonia, a meditation on European cultural heritage and conflict via the Louvre. Continue reading

The Exhibition Catalogue As Printed Echo

When a museum exhibition ends, all we’re left with are memories.

Well, that and a catalogue.

Museum exhibitions are collaborative projects, culminations of the work of many people with a variety of skills: Continue reading

Listening to Museums: Sound Mapping Strategies for Visual Environments

I presented this paper at the 2015 Ecrea Media & The City conference at the Faculty of Political Sciences at the University of Zagreb.

You can read the abstract below.


 

The multisensory experience of museums is becoming increasingly relevant to curators, the visiting public, and academics, with many museums even beginning to include participatory activities based on listening to their own soundscapes in their public engagement programs. But what does it mean to listen to a visual environment? What are some effective strategies for engaging with a museum soundscape? Could listening to museums lead to the development of new cultural institutions devoted to sound? In my artistic practice, I have spent the last five years making sound maps of several museums and archives including the Egyptian Museum in Cairo (shortly before the Arab Spring revolution), the British Library’s Sound Archive, the Art Institute of Chicago, Tate Modern, and The Pitt Rivers at Oxford. Eschewing a top-down, Google Maps API approach, my sound maps exist as immersive sound compositions that lead the listener through an audio tour of a different kind, a cognitive map that juxtaposes the sounds of objects and environments in new configurations and contexts much like museum curators juxtapose items in exhibitions. In addition to the sound maps, I also make blind listening sketches of museum soundscapes in situ, closing my eyes and drawing the sounds I hear for a predetermined duration using a system of mark making that is gradually becoming a lexicon of museum sound symbols. My research into the sonic experience of museums presents these soundscapes as cognitive maps, my personal journeys that are moving closer and closer to an attempt to define the authentic essence of what museums sound like. In this paper, I document the inspirations and thinking behind my museum sound mapping strategies along with a selection of their results, including sound compositions, videos, and drawings that map my acts of listening to various museum spaces, archiving them for the future.

Why Listen to Museums?

This is the text of a talk I gave during the Soundscapes Late event at the National Gallery in London on 4 September, 2015. You can also download and listen to a recording of the talk on my SoundCloud page. Continue reading

Review: Samsung Digital Discovery Centre, British Museum, 8-9 August 2015

Stepping into the Virtual Reality Weekend Immersive Fulldome in the Great Court at the British Museum yesterday, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I had read the press release for the event, and knew that I was about to experience a digital recreation of a 4,000 year-old bronze age roundhouse, complete with digitally scanned recreations of objects within the British Museum’s collections – but what form would this actually take? Continue reading

Studying Museums on Facebook

I’ve created a public group on Facebook called Studying Museums, where I’ve begun to share some Museum Studies-related news. It seemed to me like every Museum Studies group on Facebook was tethered to a specific university program, and it seems like the discipline would benefit from more open discussion. If you’re interested in museums, want to share articles you’ve discovered or even written, please join the group and enter the discussion!

Join the Studying Museums Facebook Group