What is it?
A Museum in a Box is small acrylic or plywood box. It comes with a collection of objects – 3D prints, postcards, documents, maps and the like; anything you can pick up and touch – and can be sent anywhere in the world!
Commissions, Collections & Prototypes
(most recent first)
039 – Creative Courtroom
June 2019 – commission – National Justice Museum
The National Justice Museum in Nottingham, UK, commissioned us to create a set of cards illustrating six core courtroom roles: judge, barrister, court usher, court clerk, juror, and defendant, bringing each of these roles to life to help supplement their existing outreach & education program. The collection is aimed at Key Stage 2 students, and designed to teach what happens in a classroom.
038 – Magical Objects
2019 – Museum in a Box commission
This is the first of our planned Collections that Museum in a Box itself commissions. We are assembling a crack team of creatives. We have a funding proposal ready to send to potential funders, and seek a museum partner to collaborate with on object selection and story development.
If you are a museum that holds magical or mysterious objects in your Collection and would like to be our partner, please get in touch!
037 – Living with History Memory Boxes
February-May 2019 – commission – Monroe County History Center
We are developing 4 “Memory Boxes” (with the Museum in a Box inside) around themes or topics to prompt memories, conversation, and connection between people living with dementia and their care partners.
There’s a combination of original physical objects from the collection, retro photography from open cultural collections like the US National Archives and the Library of Congress, and audio that combines prompts for conversation with rich, evocative sound effects, and those questions are repeated in large text on the back of the card along with a prompt to find the original object. Here’s an example postcard:
In early testing, Susan, Director of the Center, sent us some incredible feedback:
“Cindy, in pink, who usually doesn’t interact much at all, spoke more than anyone has ever heard her talk.”
036 – Life & Times of Bata Factory Workers in East Tilbury
February-May 2019 – commission – Bata Heritage Centre
The Bata Shoe Factory was established in East Tilbury, England, in the 1930s. We worked with the Bata Heritage Centre volunteers to create two Collections: Work & Community, recreating what it was like for the people who lived and worked there. The Box will be used at local heritage events and in schools by the Centre’s volunteers, many of whom lived in East Tilbury and had family at the factory.
We also worked with Maker of Special Things, Takako Copeland, who made this beautiful custom box to hold the Collection objects.
035 – KwaZulu-Natal Object Encounters & Narratives
March-May 2019 – commission – Iziko Museums, University of Leicester Museum Studies, King’s College London
“Decolonisation remains a major challenge for museums worldwide. Centuries of European colonialism means many historically marginalised communities are still disconnected, both physically and culturally, from material culture appropriated from them and then dispersed to museums far away in the metropolitan centres.”
This was the premise for our three day workshop in Cape Town in April. Gathering together Zulu community experts with Iziko Museum staff, storytellers and researchers, with the aim to facilitate lasting, animated connections between descendant Zulu communities and Zulu collections held by museums in both Canada and Cape Town, South Africa.
034 – Transatlantic Slavery & Its Contemporary Significance
February-March 2019 – commission – International Slavery Museum
Working with their Youth Ambassadors, the International Slavery Museum commissioned us to create a Collection of 3D models and postcards describing some of the important objects in their gallery space. Ten individual contributors made ten great stories about objects that would have been touched by African slaves, and several contemporary artworks about slavery held at the museum.
033 – UK Muslim Portraits
February 2019 – commission – Everyday Muslim
Everyday Muslim is a long-term project to create a central archive of Muslim lives, arts, education and cultures from across the UK.
032 – Hiragana – Illustrated Japanese Phonics
August 2018 – prototype – Takako Copeland
Takako is an illustrator and printmaker based in London. She designed a poster of the Japanese Hiragana set for her daughter, and we’re making them into a set of cards that can speak the letters for you, as part of the Make Your Own Museum in a Box pilot.
031 – Barnsley Museums Outreach Collection
Jul-Nov 2018 – commission – Barnsley Museums
We’ve created six collections for the Barnsley Museums up in Yorkshire, about life in a colliery, art and design, the science behind coal mining, and working life at Cannon Hall. We worked with writer Tash Hodgson, actors Hayley Cartwright, Richard Hand, Drew Carter-Cain, Wendy Patterson, Ross Grant, and Julie-Anne Dean, and Judith & Chris at the Voiceover Gallery.
It was great fun to learn about anemometers, deep dark mines, frazzled squirrels, and veiled ladies! We’re looking forward to seeing what material Ally Beckett and her Learning team develop around the collections, and how they’re used up North.
030 – Tomb in a Box
July 2018 – commission – University of Melbourne
Two PhD researchers have created a fantastic Tomb in a Box to be taken from Melbourne into rural Victoria to help their research on object-based learning techniques and impact.
029 – Demonstration box for the Cultural Orgs of Sweden
July 2018 – commission – Swedish National Heritage Board
The Swedish National Heritage Board is Sweden’s central administrative agency in the area of cultural heritage. This commission was about creating a small demonstration collection and a Box for the board to take around Sweden to show their museums, libraries and archives, and hopefully convince them to make a Box of their own!
028 – SEE RED Women’s Workshop Feminist Printmaking
May 2018 – commission – Victoria and Albert Museum
We made a Box and postcard Collection to be housed at the Lansbury Micro Museum, alongside facsimiles of the brilliant posters made nearby by the SEE RED Women’s Workshop in the 70s. When the museum was closed, the V&A team took the Box and postcards out into local schools and a youth club, to ask local teens what they thought of the content, and whether things had changed since then. Their responses were recorded, and folded back into the exhibition experience, so visitors to the museum could either hear from the printmakers themselves about what it was like to make the work, or from the local teens about what’s changed.
027 – A Partnership: National Museum of Iraq & British Museum
April 2018 – commission – The British Museum
The British Museum hosted four staff from the National Museum of Iraq, providing training around the full life cycle of digitising cultural materials. We were thrilled to produced a box to celebrate the project, and are even more thrilled to know that there is now a Museum in a Box in Baghdad!
026 – History of STEM
024 – The Asia-Pacific American Experience
April 2018 – commission – Smithsonian Libraries
Our most ambitious commission to date, we’ve created 11 boxes and two collections to support the Smithsonian Institution Libraries UNSTACKED education programme. The boxes went to seven schools and two museums across the USA for two months, and students explored what it was like for migrants coming to the USA from Asia, and the history of science with a fun twist.
- Browse the collection images and citations
We had great fun working with writers Tom Bowtell, Louise To and Liz Laribee; voice actors, Becky Wright, Suni La, Hemi Yeroham; and Offset Audio to make our first professionally produced collections. We also used sounds and music from the brilliant Smithsonian Folkways collection to supplement the scripts.
025 – Climate Change in a Box
January 2018 – commission – Jon Christensen
Writeup coming soon.
023 – Haunted Objects
August 2017 – prototype
For our prototypes on this so far, we’re using imagery from the brilliant Met Museum to celebrate their commitment to open cultural content and the public domain.
022 – Greek Gods & Goddesses
August 2017 – prototype
Lots of kids learn about gods and goddesses and love it! We want to make a collection to teach kids all about the Olympic gods, but also other collections to help teach them about all the gods around the world.
For our prototypes on this so far, we’re using imagery from the brilliant Rijksmuseum to celebrate their commitment to open cultural content.
021 – How the Ear Works
July 2017 – prototype
This was a quick demo box we made for the Science Museum, using materials from their collection, and a puzzle Charlie made that helps you figure out the different parts of a human ear.
020 – Phonics in a Box
June 2017 – prototype
Another internal prototype, we explored using a box to teach a young person learning to read about how to pronounce words using phonics. We’ll pick this up again at some point. It’s simple and works really well!
019 – Points of Contact: Camden Art Collection
May 2017 – commission – London Borough of Camden
The Arts & Tourism team at the London Borough of Camden received funding from Arts Council England to deploy a Museum in a Box as the primary vehicle to engage young people in the Camden Arts Collection. We made a box that contained eight works from the collection; a mixture of sculptural and two-dimensional works. The box travelled widely around Camden, and was part of 13 workshops across the borough, held at Swiss Cottage, Kentish Town, Queens Crescent and Kilburn Centre libraries, and the Great Ormond Street Hospital.
We’ve written this box up in lots more detail on the blog.
018 – Hearing History Box
April 2017 – commission – Jewish Museum London
We were commissioned by the Jewish Museum London to make this box to remember Jewish people who served in war. Working particularly with John Murray, Learning Programme Manager (Special Projects), we designed an original poppy to be printed, and constructed a 3D model of the AJEX memorial from the National Memorial Arboretum.
This was also our first opportunity to explore the effect of artistic treatment of 3D prints. After the lovely gypsum prints came out of ThinkSee3D in Oxford, we sent them to the brilliant artists at Pango Studios for painting. The memorial and poppies look beautiful (so we’d like to do that again!).
John said, “We couldn’t be happier with the results, and the MiaB team were fantastic throughout the making process. Their creative advice and practical expertise have been invaluable and the final product has exceeded our expectations.”
017 – Healing Through Archives
March 2017 – commission – Abira Hussein / London Metropolitan Archives
This box was a collaboration with Abira Hussein from the London Metropolitan Archives, and we were also assisted by Jennifer Wexler at the British Museum. As part of the Object Journeys program at the British Museum, we helped Abira construct a box of 3D prints and photographs. Abira writes that the project is the start of something longer term, “using technology to work with community groups around themes of migration, memory and identity”.
Tom and Charlie attended the workshop. It was our first time working with oral histories like this, and we were thrilled when the women attending sang a song in response.
At the suggestion of our advisor, Gill Wildman, we held a “Brain Raising” workshop at HQ. Helped by a visit from Adrian, our Liverpool-based tech lead, and other friends, we were able to make 6 boxes in two days.
016 – MOO NFC
Our first box for 2017 was investigating two things: 1) how we might be able to use the brilliant MOO NFC business cards in our boxes, and 2) how we might be able to encourage object-based learning and enquiry prompts in each box, to help people using the box and exploring the objects to question what they’re looking at. (More on our emerging educational strategy in this blog post.)
015 – Baghdad 900AD
The Baghdad box was a training exercise for our junior designer, Charlie, to wrap his head around the components and workflow required to put a box together. He made the whole thing, from start to finish, including sourcing the various images, and writing and recording the scripts for each postcard in the box.
014 – I See Wonder
November 2016 – commission – Smithsonian Libraries
I See Wonder is an exciting education program developed by Sara Cardello, Education Specialist at the Smithsonian Institution Libraries. We made a demonstration box for her about the Astronomy Collection, and hand-delivered it for a board meeting in Washington DC. We took the opportunity to think through a little more about what sorts of information we could put on the back of the postcards, too.
013 – The Planets
This was an R&D box exploring how the form of the box could reflect its content. We used the lovely Planets Suite by Gustav Holst (and available on the Internet Archive for reuse) as our content. Tom has written up more about this exercise in the News section.
012 – Music Tech Fest
This was an R&D box around the question of archiving a live event through the medium of Museum in a Box. Tom attended the brilliant Music Tech Fest where he met with some young music makers and recorded their instruments and thoughts, which we’re putting in a box for easy playback.
011 – Ancient Egypt: Daily Lives
July 2016 – commission – The British Museum
We were commissioned by the British Museum to make a demonstration box that’s a blend of 3D and 2D objects about daily life in ancient Egypt. We’re finding that a demo box speaks volumes about potential, and it was great to be able to show the box to families at the museum. We were happy to ask the young people who tried it what they thought of it all, and actually incorporated back into the demonstration box to share within the British Museum:
010 – Frogs in a Box
June 2016 – commission – Smithsonian Libraries
This is a box of postcards, also in a natural history vein. We’ve made a demo box that was sent across the Atlantic to help explain ourselves from afar. It’s called Frogs in a Box, and plays you the commentary of a herpetologist and the various frogs’ calls as you boop.
This box is part of a larger plan to do an exciting pilot with Smithsonian Institution Libraries and their visual literacy program called I See Wonder. You can watch our pitch video to attend SxSWedu next year here:
009 – Skulls R&D box
This box was aspirational, and hasn’t been completed. It was intended to demonstrate one of the great promises of Museum in a Box, that you will be able to bring collections together from collections all over the world. This box had a natural history angle, and we tried gathering interested natural history museum folk from around the globe to contribute a model or two or three (with some success). We’re working with the cultural folk at Sketchfab, who are busy building a great collection of museum resources on their fast-growing platform.
008 – Big Stuff from the British Museum, Mark II
It’s becoming fairly clear that creating great content for the people using these boxes is going to be hard work (with high returns!). Our BSFTBM Mark II box was about going through the process of writing original scripts to accompany each object, and recording them in-house. A fun script that popped out was a first-person account from Hoa Hakananai’a of what it’s like to be old.
007 – BBC’s Tweet of the Day
This Tweet of the Day prototype was developed to assist us about figuring out what’s required for us to quickly establish a partnership between content, printing, and use. It’s also our first attempt to set up a licensing arrangement with a big content provider which is helpful. Ultimately not successful yet, because licensing specific audio content from the Beeb is a complicated challenge. We’d like to go back to it though, because there’s so much potential! (This box is very popular.)
We were also considering what it would take to make a smaller Box on this project too, fantasising about an old skool Walkman form factor.
006 – Big Stuff from the British Museum
February 2016 – commission – Russell Davies
Our first commission! We were very happy to put together this collection for our friend, Anne. Anne doesn’t like small things, so we thought we’d go the other direction and choose the biggest things in public spaces at the British Museum. We experimented with scale in this box too. All the objects were printed at scale with each other, and included a scale object — in this case, a print of Anne herself, coming in at 160cm — so Anne was able to use herself to figure out how big everything else is, like the Amitābha Buddha, who’s about 578cm tall (depending on who you ask). We also put together a handwritten notebook to accompany the set, starting the journey of ‘what happens around the box’, and explore what kinds of contextual information we could include around each object, in this case, along a theme around how the objects made their way to London.
003 – Statues of Women in London
004 – Classy Gypsum Prints with ThinkSee3D
005 – Postcards of Animals
To prepare for our first big public reveal at the Remix Conference, we developed our next three boxes. This round of prototypes were the first to include functional “brains” and a fleshed out V1 backend system. We built a V1 “boop log” which shows you any time an object gets booped; a feature we think could become pretty interesting as the community grows. It was really exciting to watch live reactions to the idea, and it gave us a great boost to keep developing the idea. This round was also about exploring the quality of 3D printing, and we were happy to work with the good folk at ThinkSee3D who made some fancy gypsum prints, special because there’s a heft to them that isn’t there with the normal plastic prints. It’s a shame they’re still really expensive!
002 – Paper Prototypes
It took us a few months to return to the project, thanks to a busy 2015 working on other things. We incorporated the company in October, and then set about making some paper prototypes to explore our early interaction design ideas. It was here that we came up with the idea that the base of the object should look the same as the place where you “boop” it, or bring into contact with the reader that can recognise it. Let us raise a glass to our mate Daniel Pett too, for suggesting we use the same felt as you get on the bottom of chess pieces for our 3D prints. Fancy!
001 – Somewhat Random Things from the British Museum
We made our very first box for a two-week residency at Somerset House in London. It was a set of readily available 3D models with a good geographic spread, and they happened to all be from the British Museum. During our residency, which was also beginning to explore an associated project called The Small Museum, we took an object from the collection and studied it for a day, resulting in an exhibition piece about it. You can read a lot more about this over at The Small Museum blog.