Providing renewed access to and engagement with museum objects and spaces from an aural perspective
About the Project
Sound has become a predominant aspect of everyday culture. We constantly surround ourselves with sound, including in the museum. Sound presents alternative, bodily experienced and time-sensitive relations to objects and spaces, which the museum can use to deepen engagements with its collections.
The evolution of museums has privileged the visitor’s relation to objects through sight. Yet, sound has always been present in museums. Many collections include sonic objects such as musical instruments, auditory tools and digital assets. They also include "silent" works that require an acoustic dimension to be fully understood such as paintings of musical scenes, allegorical iconography and archival material. Visitors are sometimes frustrated at not being able to perceive the sonic dimension of these objects. They want to enhance their engagement with museum objects in a more holistic way.
This research project aims to highlight the role of sound in the museum experience and to develop activities and tools that allow this influence to benefit the museum and its current and potential visitors. It will enhance sound as an engagement device offering new perspectives for audiences. Resulting from a collaborative process involving museum staff, researchers in humanities and technical developments, as well as different types of users, the project will find concrete developments in V&A East, which includes the creation of a new museum and Collections and Research Centre.
Outcomes will include a special issue of "Curator: The Museum Journal" due Spring 2019, which will look at various aspects of "The Sonic Museum". A forthcoming book to be published in 2020 will examine the concept of "Displaying Music in the 21st Century". Artistic commissions from sound artists will interrogate the relation between objects, places and people. Seminars, co-designed workshops and internal forums will help museum staff, current and potential visitors and external consultants to develop curatorial strategies and technical tools that enliven the sonic dimension of the museum.
Sound artist and composer Caroline Devine creates unique site-specific sound installations that provide playful and unexpected encounters with sound and music. In 2018, Andrew W. Mellon Visiting Professor Eric de Visscher commissioned Devine to create ‘Resonant Bodies’, a work which brought a new dimension to a display of musical instruments in the V&A’s South Asia Gallery during the London Design Festival. 'Resonant Bodies' facilitated new engagement with the instruments on display by enhancing their sonic dimension and offering visitors an aural perspective on the objects and the space they inhabit in the V&A.
Senior Curator of Design & Digital Corinna Gardner, Andrew W. Mellon Visiting Professor Eric de Visscher & Director of the Museum of Portable Sound John Kannenburg discussed listening to museum sounds & what we miss when we look at 'sonic objects'.
A behind-the-scenes workshop in the V&A stores at Blythe House with Andrew W. Mellon Visiting Professor Eric de Visscher including exclusive access to the Museum’s collection of 17th-century musical instruments.
Andrew W. Mellon Visiting Professor, Eric De Visscher, talked about his research into sound in the museum, while sound artist Caroline Devine discussed her work 'Resonant Bodies' commissioned for London Design Festival 2018.
'Partials', by viol player & former V&A Artist in Residence Liam Byrne, was a site-specific sound installation featured in the V&A REVEAL Festival in 2017. It was a sonic illustration of musical notes in their most elemental state.