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Project Four - MIAB Mediterranean

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Jennifer Wexler

For this CEEF project at the Fitzwilliam Museum (Project 4), I am working with Museum in a Box together with curators, education, digital, and other stakeholders at the museum to develop a project with looking at the connections between collections from around the ancient Mediterranean, one of cornerstones of the Fitzwilliam’s collections. The Fitzwilliam Museum, in conjunction with its affiliated Cambridge Museum, is a place of wonder, but how do we make it a place of exploration as well for audiences with little or no background in the heritage sector? Making museum data and collections research both available and palatable to researchers and members of the public is a key challenge that all cultural heritage institutions are increasingly facing. The use of innovative digital tools, especially 3D technology, as part of the Creative Economy Engagement Fellowships gives us an excellent opportunity to look at new and exciting ways to not only tell unknown stories from the collections of the Fitzwilliam Museum but also to feature on-going research and other digital content in a new light. By using innovative 3D technology, such as employed by the creative industry partners ThinkSee3D and Museum in a Box, we have a golden opportunity to create new ways of storytelling around the Fitzwilliam’s collections.

The nature of this project would allow audiences to be exploratory, like the ancient navigators of the Mediterranean, using mixed media as well as digital technology to discover different routes, places, objects, and stories. The technology developed by Museum in a Box allows us to incorporate different types of tactile and digital media to tell these stories around the early Mediterranean, utilising new 3D models of collection objects, 3D prints (in conjunction with ThinkSee3D), and additional postcards/prints from the collections. We would develop a new type of a Museum in a Box that would serve as a pop-up museum as well as exploratory map of the Mediterranean, including incorporating tactile 3D prints and AR storytelling. This will be created in conjunction with research currently being developed for the Being an Islander: Art and Identity of the Large Mediterranean Islands, a major project and exhibition (October 2021 – February 2022) providing a platform to debate cultural evolution in the islands, extending to the discussion of Britain’s own (perceived or not) island identity, and showcasing objects from the Aegean and Cypriot Collections of the Fitzwilliam Museum. The Museum in a Box will also incorporate outcomes from the Re-Approaching Ancient Cyprus project, in conjunction with the refurbishment of the A.G. Leventis Gallery of Ancient Cyprus, as well as previous research from the Making Waves and Lewis Collection, allowing us to highlight other key themes from the Fitzwilliam’s collections, such as fine art connected to the sea/Mediterranean and collection histories. Additionally, with the development of this box, we will be looking to connect with objects and content from other Cambridge museums, such as the Museum of Classical Archaeology and the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, and would draw on in-house expertise in Mediterranean archaeology at the McDonald Institute of Archaeology – creating cross-cutting and interdisciplinary connections.

This project evolves from my research background in Mediterranean archaeology, and my experience working on digital and archival project in museums over the last four years. In my PhD research, I investigated the development of prehistoric rock-cut tombs and sites across a large region of Sicily. The research methodology gave me a good understanding of contextual, landscape archaeology and the importance of understanding the connections between objects, sites and their surrounding archaeological landscape by integrating data from previous studies, archival records, and new digital surveys. I have looked further at early connections across the Mediterranean in my Prehistoric Society-funded project, Prehistoric Landscapes of Lampedusa Project. My more recent work on a series of digital humanities projects, such as the African Rock Art Image Project, MicroPasts Project, and Global Perspectives on British Archaeology Project, at the British Museum has given me a great understanding of the importance of developing digital engagement in archaeology as well as an essential sets of digital skills, such as 3D modeling and previous experience with working with the project’s PI, ThinkSee3D and Museum in a box on multiple projects. This project will also support the prototyping and development of a Museum in a Box subscription scheme and thematic boxex for the Fitzwilliam, as part of Project 3.

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