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Creative Spaces

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Ellen West - web producer | 13:44 UK time, Thursday, 26 March 2009

Ian Hislop - Sir John Soane's Museum from Creative Spaces on Vimeo.

Nine museums and galleries around the UK are collaborating on a website called Creative Spaces, with the aim of allowing people to group items from collections together and comment on them. Users become curators of their own exhibitions, gathering together objects that have inspired them from the nine participating institutions. You might want to group items related to elephants: collecting together elephant armour from 17th-century India held by the Royal Armouries, a painting entitled Vishnu Saves the Elephant King from the V&A and a photograph of an elephant pulling an aircraft from the Imperial War Museum

All of the items I've listed are remarkable, and the system makes it quite straightforward to group things together in this way (although adding links can be a challenge), but I'll be interested to see who will take the time to participate in this project. It's early days, but at the moment it feels like most of the people taking part are from museums and galleries themselves.

What seems to be slightly lacking from the site at the moment is passion. Although some of the groups have members in double figures there seems to be little discussion going on. The Jane Austen group for example, lists 11 items but makes no comment on why the items were chosen. When a group has added some comments - as in the Self-Portraits group they don't appear automatically, they sit behind the item and you have to follow a link to see them. It feels counter-intuitive and doesn't give an immediate sense of why somebody has added something.

You have to go to the video area for real enthusiasm, where contributors including Ian Hislop (see above), Timorous Beasties and Gerald Scarfe talk warmly about different museum collections and items that they have found particularly inspiring. The videos are engaging and provide a warmth and narrative that is - as yet - absent from the rest of the site. Here's hoping that it will become more evident as more people join, but I think that there needs to be as much emphasis on the why as the what.


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