Channel, Somerset House, London
During the pandemic, most of us tuned in more to the digital world, maybe hiding from the headlines and instead lapping up all the content being produced, particularly in the cultural sector. There was positivity to be found for sure, but we also craved days of wandering in our beloved galleries and museums.
We were blissfully unaware that three years down the line something else would again keep us from cultural venues and wedded to our screens. We hadn’t even heard the phrase “cost of living crisis” back then. Thank goodness.
With energy and mortgage bills soaring there aren’t always the funds to just jump in the car or book a train to travel from our Cornish town to larger cultural centres. This must be true for many people across the UK. My teenagers adore our “cultural refreshment” trips. They love their Cornish lives, but now crave more from them than just the sea and the sky. Their teen years have been marred by lockdowns and uncertainty, and just as life felt normal again the monthly bills have hit us like an express train.
As I am always looking for stuff to bung in front of them that might spark their young brains in the way a trip to a gallery does, I was delighted to find Somerset House’s new digital offering. Simply called Channel, this is something that was borne from Covid (with Culture Recovery fund money), but is crucial in a world made smaller by soaring prices.
There’s a diverse programme of stuff to explore, from films to podcasts and talks and a whole load of other curated content. Channel’s publicity blurb talks of “connecting creativity and artists with wider society, producing unexpected outcomes and unexplored futures”. As a parent of teenagers this idea of unexplored futures resonated. The cultural world, and projects such as Channel, can provide a starting point for audiences (especially young audiences), to begin to explore their futures without the need for an expensive train ticket.
Wonderlab AR, Science Museum, London
I’m at the bottom end of our family’s technological capability spectrum, but I still manage most of the things required of a 40-something human being – smartphones, online banking, running a digital business.
Imagine my frustration, then, when I had to return from my walk, which I went on to test drive the Science Museum’s new Wonderlab AR app, having not been able to get it to do very much.
I love the idea of this app, which is designed to show children the science in objects in our everyday lives, but it just isn’t obvious what to do.
I then got my husband to download it on his phone (I’m Android, he’s iOS, so maybe there was a problem with my version). We neared a postbox and both got an instruction to photograph it. We did this and quite liked the bits of information given about postboxes. Encouraged, we walked further to another icon on the map, and I was asked to photograph some solar panels that I couldn’t see. Flummoxed and a bit over it, we returned home, and wondered whether a seven-year-old would be better at this than we were.
Daily Herald Archive, National Science and Media Museum, Bradford
The National Science and Media Museum has worked with Google Arts and Culture, to digitise nearly 100,000 images from its Daily Herald newspaper archive, which gives a visual history of the first half of the 20th century. These images are shown through 25 stories, which appear on both the museum’s website and the Google Arts & Culture platform. Stories told through archive material are always the way to my cultural heart. I also loved Google’s AI wizardry, which lets you bookmark images and create your own edition of the newspaper.