Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum has received a substantial award from The Hunter Foundation to build on the success of The Centre of New Enlightenment (TCoNE) and design a pioneering, interactive learning experience accessible to all visitors. The first stage of the redesign is underway as Glasgow Museums appoint a Digital Curator who will drive the project forward. The aim is to deliver a new, one-of-a-kind, smartphone based cultural and educational experience, which will increase personal discovery and encourage intergenerational learning among the 1 million plus people who visit Kelvingrove Museum each year. The space within Kelvingrove will also be modernised.
TCoNE, part of the Campbell Hunter Educational Wing, opened in July 2006, when Kelvingrove Museum reopened after a £27.6 million, three-year refurbishment. Funded by Sir Tom Hunter, it was created to complement the aims of the restoration project to improve the emotional, intellectual and physical access to Glasgow’s collection. The acclaimed TCoNE experience was particularly intended for smaller groups of pupils at risk of disengagement from school. It sought to challenge young peoples’ preconceptions of a museum.
During their adventure visitors used a palmtop computer to undertake challenges and mini-games around the museum, collecting data and responding to artefacts. Research by Kelvingrove Museum shows the TCoNE experience has been tremendously successful in its goal of building confidence and pride, by offering young people strong recognition of the value of their efforts and the importance the museum, and society, places on this. The refreshed TCoNE experience will continue to work with facilitated groups.
Chair of Glasgow Life, Councillor Archie Graham, said: “Glasgow Museums are free for everyone to enjoy and learn from the rich heritage in our care. The collections belong to the people of Glasgow and we want to make them as accessible to as many people as possible.
“This incredibly generous award from The Hunter Foundation is wonderful news. TCoNE is there to improve young visitors’ confidence and encourage them to believe that they are the architects of their own future. There are a number of large-scale studies which demonstrate that visiting museums and participating in arts projects improves health to such an extent that people live longer.
“The ethos of TCoNE remains unchanged, however in the 10 years since Kelvingrove reopened the technology has moved on considerably. This donation allows Glasgow Museums to appoint a team that will rise to the challenge of creating a new learning experience utilising modern day technology and design. We’re all excited to see what they come up with.”
Sir Tom Hunter, Founder of The Hunter Foundation (“THF”), added: “It’s a privilege to continue to support the exceptional work of Glasgow Museums and in turn upgrade a facility inspired by my dad, Campbell who’s absolute belief was that, with a little bit of inspiration we can all make a positive difference to the world. In THF our fundamental belief is that opportunity should prevail for all – in a small way that’s what T-Cone delivers, hence our ongoing support.”
The objective of TCoNE is to inspire users, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, to grow in self confidence, while encouraging them to want to lead successful lives. Over 10,500 young people have participated in the programme, with more than half of the sessions delivered to young, disengaged people. Regular repeat visitors include schools, agencies such as Jobs and Business Glasgow and charities like The Prince’s Trust.
Murdo Macdonald, Acting Depute Headteacher, Bellahouston Academy said: “When it opened TCone was so far ahead of its time it made learning incredibly stimulating for young teens. It brought the museum to life in ways that the Victorians could never have imagined. For pupils at Bellahouston Academy, it enabled young people to experience Kelvingrove in the way that suited them. In doing so, not only did they learn about the artefacts, pupils also learned about themselves and our society. In a multi-cultural school like Bellahouston, this unique experience not only benefited our children, but also encouraged families who had maybe never been to Kelvingrove, to feel that it was a place for them.
“All current pupils from S1-6 have had the opportunity to take part in TCone, free of charge. We’ve seen an extremely positive impact to attainment over the past six years and whilst this is not fully attributable to TCone, it is part of the mix of opportunities and experiences that enables our pupils to compete on an equal playing field with other pupils across the country.
“It is great to hear that an updated TCone is under development. In time we look forward to bringing our pupils to enjoy the new interactive experience.”
The design and implementation of the new interactive learning experience will begin in Spring 2017. The appointed designers will be tasked with maintaining the strengths of TCoNE and working with current users to develop the unique qualities they value. Those strengths include the treasure hunt element, which challenges visitors to solve clues to find objects in museum, to encourage users to roam free around Kelvingrove and to make the content appealing to all, leaving them with a positive, life affirming feeling.
Currently the TCoNE experience is restricted to booked-in groups and schools. Technology has changed dramatically since it opened. The ambition is to make the new experience one that is available to all visitors to Kelvingrove Museum and increase participation a hundredfold. The basic concept is built around a downloadable smartphone app, which enables visitors to activate object markers as they pass through the museum. The use of digital technology will establish thematic connections between users and the objects they encounter, encouraging increased engagement and understanding. This approach negates the need to pre-book, or have a staff member lead the session. Spare devices will be available to visitors without access to a smartphone.
Visitors have changed too. They now expect to comment, contribute and curate their own personalised experience and share it with their friends. It is anticipated the new technology will be able to accommodate these requests.
The Hunter Foundation is a proactive venture philanthropy that seeks to invest in determining model solutions, in partnership with others, to troubling systemic issues relating to poverty eradication and educational enablement. They have had a long-standing relationship with Glasgow Life, who manage the city’s museums, including making a substantial donation to the Kelvingrove Refurbishment Appeal, which lead to the creation of the Campbell Hunter Education Wing in 2006. This further gift reflects their confidence in Glasgow Museums to provide an exciting and innovative experience for those who visit Kelvingrove Museum, improving the overall interpretation and interactivity of the city’s rich civic collection.