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The Multisensory Virtual Archive:
Embodied, Spatial and Participatory Methods for the Collaborative Construction of Ethnographic Knowledge

Event: Research Seminar for HATII (the Humanities Advanced Technology and Information Institute)
Location: University of Glasgow
Date: March 8th 2016


Most archives abstract objects of study from their original environment, and in doing so, marginalise two very significant factors in their interpretation; the narratives created by spatial relationships with other objects and the embodied, multisensory experience of the object as it was originally encountered. In this paper, the environment itself will be presented as the archive, resulting in new spatial and temporal methods of engaging with multisensory archival materials.

The addition of participatory features transforms this original form of archive into a new environment for the collaborative construction of ethnographic knowledge. Tools are presented for the inscription of lived experiences within the multisensory archive, reconfiguring the relationships between author and audience and rethinking the ways in which meaning might be co-created.

Two recent projects will be presented. ‘Experience Temple Works’ is a multisensory virtual archive of a Grade I listed building in the south of Leeds. Originally built as a flax mill in 1840 and featuring numerous signature features, including a facade inspired by the Temple of Horus and the largest single room in the world (at the time of construction), the building has more recently been the home of a creative and cultural project of great importance to the region. ‘Archiving the Archive’ is a prototype system designed to provide public access to the Science Museum stores at Blythe House.


Following an introduction to my work at the Digital Design Weekend 2015, Professor Andrew Prescott very kindly invited me to deliver this research seminar within the Humanities Advanced Technology and Information Institute at the University of Glasgow. This was an excellent opportunity for me to present my work within a department engaged in critical debates regarding archives and other forms of knowledge management.