Seminar: ‘Generous Interfaces for Cultural Collections’ – 29th September

A seminar by Mitchell Whitelaw organised by Newcastle University Institute for Creative Arts Practice (NICAP)

Monday Sept 29th 1.00pm – 2.00pm

Doctoral Training Suite (Room 5.65)

5th Floor Daysh Building

After a decade or more of digitisation, the collections of galleries, archives, libraries and museums are increasingly available in digital form. In this seminar Australian academic Mitchell Whitelaw will argue that our interfaces have not kept up; the standard search-and-list approach demands a query, shows too little, and discourages exploration. In this talk Whitelaw will introduce and demonstrate what he calls “generous interfaces”: rich, explorable, browsable representations of cultural collections.

Mitchell Whitelaw is an academic, writer and practitioner with interests in new media art and culture, especially generative systems and data-aesthetics. His work has appeared in journals including Leonardo, Digital Creativity, Fibreculture, and Senses and Society. In 2004 his work on a-life art was published in the book Metacreation: Art and Artificial Life (MIT Press, 2004). His current work spans generative art and design, digital materiality, and data visualisation. Mitchell is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Arts and Design at the University of Canberra, where he leads the Digital Treasures program in the Centre for Creative and Cultural Research.

All Welcome – please feel free to bring your lunch with you.

For more information about the seminar and NICAP activities contact

Second Moon Evaluation – Call for research participants

Second Moon

Are you interested in digital art?

Are you interested in science and the movement of the planets?

Researchers in the International Centre for Cultural and Heritage Studies at Newcastle University are looking for 12 people to take part in a diary study recording personal experiences of using the Second Moon App, designed by award winning artist Katie Paterson.

As a thank you for helping us with our evaluation each participant will be offered a free family ticket to visit the amazing Great North Museum Planetarium.

What is the ‘Second Moon’ App?

In September 2013 Second Moon launched on a year-long airfreight journey moving in an anti clockwise direction across the UK, China, Australia and the USA. Orbiting at approximately twice the speed of our moon, Second Moon will orbit Earth 30 times over the year. On 26th August it will start out on its final orbit. The Second Moon App tracks this orbit in real time and visualizes it in relation to your current location, the Moon’s location and the orbits’ of the other planets in our solar system. 
Second Moon was commissioned by Locus+ in partnership with Newcastle University and Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums.

What do we want you to do?

We need people who can commit to recording their experiences of using the App over a two to three week period between 25 August-20 September 2014. To take part in the project you need to have access to a smartphone or tablet.

Interested in taking part?

Download the Participant Information Sheet Second Moon App Evaluation

Deadline to register as a participant: Monday 8 September.

ICCHS researchers co-author a chapter for ‘The Versatile Image’

The Versatile ImageICCHS PhD researcher Bronwen Colquhoun and her supervisor, Dr. Areti Galani have contributed a chapter to a new book entitled ‘The Versatile Image: Photography, Digital Technologies and the Internet,’ published by Leuven University Press. The publication was officially launched earlier this month at the Mining Institute in Newcastle upon Tyne, with a seminar that focused on the opportunities and challenges for photographers, curators and audiences of photography in the digital age. Organised by the North East Photography Network, the seminar included contributions from: visual storyteller and photography writer David Campbell; photographic historian, writer and curator Alexandra Moschovi; and a keynote talk from Netherlands-based photographic artist Willem Popelier.

Bronwen and Areti’s book chapter, ‘Flickr The Commons: Historic Photographic Collections through the Eyes of an Online Community of Interest’ is based on Bronwen’s PhD research that looks at how cultural institutions are placing photographic collections on the image-sharing website, Flickr The Commons, in order to engage with different communities of interest. The publication features a range of contributors including photographers, curators, artists and academics:

‘With the advent of digital technologies and the Internet, photography can, at last, fulfill its promise and forgotten potential as both a versatile medium and an adaptable creative practice. This multidisciplinary volume provides new insights into the shifting cultures affecting the production, collection, usage, and circulation of photographic images on interactive World Wide Web platforms.

International contributors from across the arts and humanities consider fundamental concepts that are associated with the practical applications of convergent technologies and media, focusing on the role of digital and mobile cultures and image-making in the everyday life of citizens and their experience of today’s ‘hypervisual’ digital universe, while exploring how contemporary artists creatively interact with such new photographic contexts. Accompanied by a specially commissioned photo-essay, the volume is an important new resource for photographers, artists, and curators as well as academics.’

(Leuven University Press, 2014)



ICCHS student presents at Edinburgh ‘Moving Mountains’ conference

Screen shotLast week ICCHS PhD researcher Rebecca Farley joined an interdisciplinary group of academics, artists and architects presenting at Edinburgh University’s ‘Moving Mountains’ conference.

‘Moving Mountains – Studies in Place, Society and Cultural Representation’ was organised jointly by the University of Edinburgh Art History department and the School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture. Taking place over three days the conference was delivered as an open discussion on the impact of mountains and mountain landscapes on visual art, architecture and wider culture and society. Keynote speakers included Veronica della Dora, Professor of Human Geography at Royal Holloway University of London and Tim Ingold, Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Aberdeen and Professor Eamonn O’Carragain, from University College, Cork.

Rebecca’s presentation, ‘Why is there a mountain in my metro station?’ was a contribution to the panel looking at the relationships between art, architectural space and the concept of ‘the mountain’. Focusing on one of the case study public artworks that she is investigating as part of her PhD research the paper told the story of three mountain-scape mosaics by the British artist Keith Grant commissioned by Nexus for Gateshead Metro Station in the early 1980s. It explored how this triptych of artworks has been incorporated into the architectural, visual, material and perceptual grain of everyday city space.

Visit the ‘Moving Mountains’ website for further information about the conference including all the presentation abstracts and speaker biographies.

Visit Rebecca’s profile for more information about Rebecca and details of her PhD research project.




ICCHS PGR Conference 2014

wordleLast week nine of our current PhD students presented their research at the annual ICCHS PGR Conference. In this blog post conference co-organiser and participant Bethany Rex presents her personal report from the day:

The ICCHS PGR conference look place last week, and despite the lack of coffee until late in the afternoon due to the disruption caused by a ‘suspicious substances’ alert at the University, it was a real success.  It was great to get together as a department to discuss and share ideas on our research and, for me, one of the key things that came out of the conference was an appreciation for just how ‘alive’ the research emerging from the PhD community here is. We are all pursuing diverse projects, working away at answering our own research questions, but we are also collectively contributing to a discussion on the big questions relating to the role of museums and heritage in contemporary society. If there is one thing that PhD students are good at, it is asking questions!

We started the day with my own presentation, in which I spoke about the increasing involvement of community organisations in the local authority museums sector and the role of the policy environment in influencing this.

In Session 2, Niki Black presented her work on the impact of differing interpretations of heritage on small-scale cultural festivals. Next, Bronwen Colquhoun shared the key findings of her research project that investigates how the image-sharing website, Flickr The Commons, functions as a community of interest, and the extent to which the application generates knowledge and meaning around historic photographic collections. Finally, Carolyn Gibbeson explored the varied and different interpretations of the mental asylum from the viewpoint of those who built them, former patients, urban explorers, property developers and the heritage sector.

After lunch, and kicking off Session 3, Rebecca Farley explored the significance of Keith Grant’s Gateshead Metro mosaics and the response of Metro passengers’ to their everyday encounters with the artwork. Next, Gabriella Arrigoni, a practice based researcher from Culture Lab, talked about the concept of the prototype as aesthetic paradigm of current artistic production, and the related notion of the lab as a site for testing. Following this, Muhammad Ilmam bin Tharazi, presented his overall research on the representation of Islamic art since 9/11 and the recent transformations of the Islamic galleries at major national institutions such as the V&A.

In the final session of the day, the focus turned to China. To begin, Katharina Massing presented some of the key results of her PhD project, which critically examines the current ecomuseum development in Hainan Province, China. To close, Yong Zhao presented the results of her quantitative and qualitative data analysis of visitors to the Historic City of Xi’an, China, to argue for the importance of good interpretative strategies to enhance visitor satisfaction.

After a full day of excellent presentations and discussion, we headed to the pub for a much needed drink.

Well-earned post-conference celebration.

Well-earned post-conference celebration.

Thank you to all of the presenters for talking the time to prepare their papers and to the staff in the department for supporting the conference – especially Aron and Areti for capturing our best concentration faces (available on ICCHS Facebook page!) and Susannah (and PGR alumni Tori Park) for sharing their experiences of post-PhD life and opportunities!

You can download the full conference programme including all the presentation abstracts here.


New publication – ‘Public Participation in Archaeology’


Public Participation in Archaeology publication‘Public Participation in Archaeology’, book number 15 in the Heritage Matters series has just been published. This volume is edited by Dr Suzie Thomas (Lecturer in Museology at the University of Helsinki) and Dr Joanne Lea (an educator with the Trillium Lakelands District School Board in Ontario, Canada).

Public archaeology has many facets, especially the ways in which it is understood, practised and facilitated. In some places it is unknown, in some it is actively discouraged; in others it has been embraced fully and is considered normal practice, appearing in the form of ‘community archaeology’, active school and college programmes, rethinking museum strategies, and the encouragement of on-site visits and demonstrations during archaeological fieldwork. However, in a difficult economic climate public archaeology is at risk as funding cuts demand changes in priorities for heritage organisations and local and national governments, resulting in the loss of community-based archaeological and heritage projects.

This volume examines public archaeology internationally, exploring the factors which are currently affecting how it is practised. Questions of how different publics and communities engage with their archaeological heritage are discussed, using a selection of international case studies described by experienced practitioners and theorists. Divided into sections dealing with international models, archaeology and education, archaeology and tourism, and site management and conservation, this book presents a contemporary snapshot of public participation in archaeology which will be of relevance for students, academics, participants and practitioners within the fields of archaeology, heritage and museum management.

Details of other books in the Heritage Matters series can be found on the ICCHS Research and Engagement pages. These publications can be purchased through Boydell and Brewer.

‘Conserving and Managing Ancient Monuments’ – new Heritage Matters publication

Conserving and Managing Ancient Monuments

The latest volume (book number 14) in the Heritage Matters series has just been published. ‘Conserving and Managing Ancient Monuments’ is written by Dr Keith Emerick, a practising heritage manager of 25 years’ experience and a Research Associate at the University of York.

The origins and use of conservation principles and practice from the nineteenth century to the present day are charted in this volume. Written from the perspective of a practitioner, it examines the manner in which a single, dominant mode of conservation, which held sway for many decades, is now coming under pressure from a different and more democratic heritage management practice, favouring diversity, inclusion and difference. The author blends case studies from Ireland, Cyprus and England with examples from current practice, community heritage initiatives and political policy, highlighting the development and use of international charters and conventions. Central to the main argument of the book is that the sacred cows of conservation – antiquity, fabric and authenticity – have outlived their usefulness and need to be rethought.

Details of other books in the Heritage Matters series can be found on the ICCHS Research and Engagement pages. These publications can be purchased through Boydell and Brewer.