Museum display: via shutterstock

Touching the Past: engaging ways with archaeology in Orkney

Making delicate and precious museum artefacts more accessible is the focus for a research project and a series of events at the Orkney Museum where visitors will be invited to ‘please touch!’

As part of a joint research initiative between the University of Exeter, National Museums Scotland and the University of Edinburgh the ‘Touching the Past’ project, explores different approaches to the ways in which museums can offer experiences beyond ‘just looking’.

From the 5 September there will be a series of hands-on activities, where visitors will be invited to explore for themselves questions such as whether the Scar Plaque was really a Viking ironing board, or what those curious pins from Skara Brae might have been used for. Orkney Museum is hosting this event full of pioneering new methods of engagement to enable visitors to enjoy their collections in unusual and exciting ways. Some of these build on established methods, which include the use of craft produced replica items such as the Orkney hood, or traditional craft demonstrations such as drop-spinning, tablet -weaving and Orkney straw work. Virtual experiences that are object-initiated and artefact replication achieved by 3D laser scanning and 3Dprinting are other new and high tech approaches, which use the latest developments in touch devices.

The research project is led by University of Exeter, Archaeologist, Dr Linda Hurcombe, Dr Alison Sheridan, Principal Curator, Department of Scottish History and Archaeology, National Museums of Scotland and Professor Mark Wright from the University of Edinburgh. During the week of events at the Orkney Museum, many of the approaches to museum artefacts will be available for the public to experience and participate in.

This involvement forms part of the exploratory research of the ‘Touching the Past’ project and the project team will be listening to what the visitors make of it all. Visitor feedback will form a significant part of the research project and their reactions to the range of activities will form an important element of the research project’s final evaluation.

The ‘Touching the Past’ event is in collaboration with the Orkney International Science Festival and hosted by Orkney Museum. It is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

The exhibition will run alongside the Science Festival from 5 -11 September, and will be in the Archaeology Galleries of the Orkney Museum on September 5 and 6, and 9-11, moving to the Family Day of the Science Festival at the King Street Halls on 7 September. Orkney Museum, In Tankerness House, Broad Street Kirkwall, is open 10:30am-5pm, Monday to Saturday and admission is free-of-charge.

Date: 5 September 2013

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