Curating Sound in a Platform World – Insights from the #SonicFriday project

Paper

Friday, April 30, 2021: 9:00am - 10:30am - - Paper Session

Stefania ZardiniLacedelli, University of Leicester, UK, John Stack, Science Museum Group, UK, Annie Jamieson, National Science and Media Museum, UK

Published paper: Curating Sound in a Platform World – Insights from the #SonicFriday project

Traditionally, sound had no place in museums. Originally conceived as institutions predominantly devoted to visual and material culture, only in the past twenty years have museums started to recognise the role of sound as heritage and as a means to engage audiences. The digital revolution further contributed to this shift, changing forever our practices of listening, creating and consuming sound. Sound culture is now deeply intertwined with the world of digital platforms and the participatory society we live in. As a result, museums have not only found themselves interacting with a less familiar medium (sound), but with online cultures that are often disconnected from their collections. To understand how to respond to these challenges, the National Science and Media Museum (Bradford, UK) launched the #SonicFriday project. The aim of the project, designed in collaboration with the University of Leicester in response to Covid-19, was to find new ways to extend the curation of sound on digital platforms and engage audiences with the material collection of Sound Technologies. From June to September 2020 the museum experimented with new online sonic practices and invited social media users to share memories and stories around their personal relationship with sound culture: from cassettes, CDs and mp3s to digital sampling and lockdown sounds. Through the project, more than 300 digital memories were collected and formed the basis of thematic playlists, sound maps, and Twitter exhibitions. The project raised new challenging questions around the role of sound in stimulating powerful emotional connections with museum objects, the value of people’s memories, and the role of online audiences who became co-curators of new digital narratives. This paper explores how sound curation has profound implications, not only for changes in practice, but also on the way museum professionals conceive the collections, the relationship with audiences and, ultimately, the museum itself.

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This paper builds upon a growing body of scholarship that has focused on the relationship between museums and sound culture, a recent interdisciplinary field that combines new museology and sound studies. Furthermore, it also encompasses digital studies that explore the impact of platforms on society, with particular reference to the practices of listening, consuming and creating sounds.

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