Case study: the University of Cambridge Museums, UK

Kate Noble, Education Officer at The Fitzwilliam Museum, attended a MakEY workshop in the summer of 2017. Inspired by the opportunity to tinker, make and hack with the MakEY team, including Mark Shillitoe, workshop lead, Kate subsequently worked with digital engagement specialist Ina Pruegel to develop a Digital Maker Residency project across the University of Cambridge Museums. She outlines this successful project below.

Arts and craft materials and electronic devices on a table

Making Sense family workshop at the Fitzwilliam Museum

The University of Cambridge Museums (UCM) Digital Maker Residency ran between January and March 2018. Katy Marshall, an artist, maker and educator from Cambridge was appointed as the maker in residence.

The project team hoped that the project would inspire staff, teachers, parents and young people to become digital makers and enable us to explore ways in which we might integrate digital making into the museum experience. We were particularly interested in how digital technologies might come together with traditional creative processes represented within our collections and how we could support the development of skills, confidence and motivation to empower young people to make, design and use digital technologies.

We programmed several different types of event. At the Museum of Zoology, animals in the collection were the inspiration for 3D paper models which were brought alive with the addition of sound and movement using Micro:Bit. At the Museum of Classical Archaeology, LEDs were used to embellish greetings cards. In addition to a number of family workshops, The Fitzwilliam Museum also piloted a digital making session for primary schools in partnership with a local makerspace challenging children to design their own, ‘Museum of the Future’.

We also ran a series of more playful pop-up maker activities in the exhibition spaces at The Fitzwilliam Museum and Museum of Zoology which were designed to encourage general visitors and museum staff to have a go at digital making. All these activities involved traditional art making and skills but a digital element extended the scope of the activities.

Over the course of the residency, 195 children took part in digital making workshops and there were 67 staff engagements with our bitesize and training programme. We also had over 100 adults and families through the pop-up maker activities. The project enabled UCM staff to develop their skills and confidence in using digital technology to make things with young children. It also provided an opportunity to experiment with a more iterative approach to digital learning and to consider the role of museums in supporting the development of children’s creativity as the makers of the future.

Kate Noble, Education Officer

The Fitzwilliam Museum

University of Cambridge Museums

This project had numerous implications for undertaking Digital Maker Residencies for working with children aged 3–8. The MakEY guidance and resources for museums booklet provides information about the approaches and materials that could be used in such programmes. Materials will obviously need to relate to the specific collections and workshop themes involved in the project.

For young children, it is also important that the maker in residence has a good understanding of early years learning, although of course she/he can work alongside professionals who have expertise in this area. The maker could set up valuable connections with early years teachers, nurseries and schools in the area in order to develop a MakEY community.