New Cabinets for New Curiosities

Update 13 July 2012: We have had to delay the release of the data sets until early next week. We apologise for any inconvenience or disappointment this may cause.

The Brighton Digital Festival returns for its second year this September. Last year’s event saw 14,000 people take part, and the expectation is that this year’s event will be even bigger.

The festival aims to build ‘bridges between Brighton’s digital creative industries and the thriving digital communities which exist in the city, and Brighton’s equally vibrant arts community’. In this spirit, we will be running an open data experiment over the next few months, and showcasing some of the results in Brighton Museum during September.

Part of Cabinet of Curiosities in Brighton Museum, 1990s
Part of Cabinet of Curiosities in Brighton Museum, 1990s

At the end of this week we will release several sets of collection data, with accompanying images. We will invite coders, developers and digital artists to experiment and play with this data, and develop prototype web projects on the theme of ‘New Cabinets for New Curiosities’. We will shortlist a small number to showcase on Brighton Museum’s South Balcony, and invite feedback on the results. In October, we’ll publish the results of the feedback and fund one or two projects into a final product.

We will announce full details of the submission process at the end of this week, alongside the release of the data sets. But for now, it’s worth saying a little more about the theme.

New cabinets? New curiosities?

Cabinets of curiosity date back to the sixteenth century, and are part of the DNA of the modern museum. We published a blog post about the history of these cabinets last week. If you’ve lived here long enough, you may even remember the Cabinet of Curiosity in Brighton Museum, which was on the upper floor in the space now occupied by the lift.

Part of Cabinet of Curiosities in Brighton Museum, 1990s
Part of Cabinet of Curiosities in Brighton Museum, 1990s

As framed spaces in which objects from the world are ordered and presented, they are ripe for reinterpretation in the digital age. Digital technologies can provide new forms of cabinet, and provide new ways of presenting and ordering museum objects. But there is another way of looking at this. In the original cabinets, the curiosities were the objects themselves. Perhaps digital technology can be used to encourage new forms of personal curiosity, new ways of thinking about and searching for objects?

New cabinets or new curiosities? Or both? The choice will be yours.

We will announce full details later this week. For updates, we have set up a Twitter account for the project @newcuriosities. You can also follow our regular feed from Twitter @brightonmuseums, Facebook or Google+.  In the meantime, you can learn more about the Brighton Digital Festival on its website http://2012.brightondigitalfestival.co.uk/ or via Twitter: @digitalbrighton #BDF12

Kevin Bacon
Digital Development Officer

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