Digital reviews | Archive stories, youthful memories and an engaging podcast - Museums Association

Digital reviews | Archive stories, youthful memories and an engaging podcast

A scroll through the latest digital content from museums and galleries
The Sculpting Lives podcast covers the work of Veronica Ryan Courtesy Alison Jacques, London, and Create, London; photo Lisa Whiting
Sculpting Lives Podcast second series

The best bit of trawling the digital world of art, museums and heritage trying to find interesting projects to write about for Museums Journal is stumbling across things that you then engage with on a regular basis – and not just because it’s work. That’s exactly what happened with the first series of the Sculpting Lives podcast, which I discovered last year, and I am thrilled that it has returned for a second series.

A collaboration between Jo Baring, the director of the Ingram Collection of Modern British and Contemporary Art, and Sarah Turner, the deputy director for research at the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art in London, and supported by the Paul Mellon Centre, each episode of this superb podcast takes a woman sculptor for its subject and explores not only their artworks but also their networks, connections and relationships, too.

It has the feel of your favourite kind of radio programme – beautifully produced and hosted by very knowledgeable people who crave more knowledge. They travel around to interview people too, visiting museums and galleries across the UK, so it feels – in our more “at home” way of life – a way of getting out and about too.

Museums and galleries must continue to look for new ways of engaging with their audiences as we navigate through this pandemic and podcasts really do need to be considered. They are a superb way of highlighting the stories that museums carry within them, making connections between the past and the present that we all seem to crave in these weird times.

National Museum of African American History and Culture | The Searchable Museum

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) has launched The Searchable Museum – a digital initiative designed to reach audiences beyond the walls of its home in Washington DC in the US.


This digital project is a place to explore history and culture through an African American lens. It is intended to grow over time, building from a small but beautifully executed start, which sees the museum’s in-gallery Slavery and Freedom exhibition reimagined for a digital space.

I do love seeing big projects from big hitters – with oodles of cash, I imagine – that start with something pretty small and don’t overwhelm, and the NMAAHC has done just this.

Notably, this is not just the real-world exhibition slapped online for faraway visitors to have a gander at, nor is it a jaw-dropping, big-budget feast for the eyes (remember the V&A’s Bowie App?). It falls somewhere in the middle, echoing the in-gallery experience but developed with the skills of a team who know how online audiences navigate their way through digital content.

The site pulls together existing and newly developed digital assets including video, audio podcasts and 3D models, and pairs this with plenty to read. This is a meaty digital experience – you can spend a long time getting to grips with the subject matter here – but it is really easy to navigate and the design means there is no sense of feeling overwhelmed as you read, watch and listen.

If you want to, you can explore every last word the museum has written on the subject – this is definitely a deep dive digital experience – but there are also lovely opportunities to skim, too, especially the carefully selected objects, such as the Point of Pines slave cabin, which is a main exhibit at the museum. Here you can dip into small pieces of audio, quotes, images or videos, or you can click to dive deeper into the cabin’s story and the narratives that can be told through it.

It’s a real dream of a digital museum experience, one that I hope carries on being developed by the Smithsonian and that is held up by others as a great example of how to do digital storytelling in the heritage sector.

Museum of Youth Culture Twitter feed
Testament of youth: Riot Grrrls, Sheffield, 1994, from the MoYC archive

I’ve pretty much given up Twitter. For me it is time to call time on something that frankly I’ve spent far too much time on over the years. I need to remember it like my youth, with rose-tinted glasses firmly in place, and with much fondness.

When I do occasionally pop back in, I am always drawn beyond my angry timeline to the Museum of Youth Culture’s glorious photographic archive (I always love the ones from the 1980s), which it scatters casually on its Twitter feed. They make me smile, and always make me click on to their website. Job done. A great example of using Twitter simply and effectively.

Alongside this, the Museum of Youth Culture is looking for a permanent real-world home (it is currently at 35 Beak St, Carnaby, London) and is crowdfunding accordingly.

The website isn’t ground-breaking, flashy or likely to blow your mind, but I defy you not to get hooked on its archive via its regular drip- feed of superb images.

Comments (1)

  1. Stacey Bagdi says:

    Love the idea of museum podcasts!

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