The Moveable Museum of Found Objects

Katie Smith and Dave Briggs, Creative Communities

An artist-led consultation activity showcasing a curious crowdsourced collection of found objects

Disciplinary background(s) Socially Engaged Art, Digital Engagement

When did the research take place? The Moveable Museum of Found Objects pitched up in 5 different locations over a six week period during June and July 2013.

Context for research

In 2012 Arts Council England launched the Creative People and Places fund. The fund focuses investment in parts of the country where people’s involvement in the arts is significantly below the national average, with the aim of increasing the likelihood of participation. South Holland & Boston Borough in Lincolnshire has been awarded nearly £2.6million through Transported, a consortium comprising of artsNK, Lincs Artist Forum and Lincolnshire CVS. The first phase of Transported was an artist-led consultation which took work and performances by commissioned artists on the road throughout Boston Borough and South Holland. It gathered information from residents via a team of Community Researchers which is now being used to inform the delivery phase of the programme.

The Moveable Museum of Found Objects was commissioned as an artist-led consultation activity. It showcases a curious crowdsourced collection of found objects which have been accessioned and curated in a 5 berth caravan. Exploring notions of value and beauty in objects that have been lost, forgotten or discarded, it aims to take a museum experience to unexpected places and unsuspecting audiences.

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Aims of research 

The purpose of ACE’s investment in South Holland and Boston Borough is to encourage experimentation ‘with new and radically different approaches and to develop inspiring, sustainable arts programmes that will engage audiences in those communities.’

The major challenge for Transported is to engage with the unengaged; in order to do this the programme’s stakeholders (artists, arts organisations, libraries, heritage and local authority partners) felt that current attitudes towards the arts, existing audience behaviours and aspirations for future arts provision needed to be understood. Through a series of open space events they developed theories to explain why people’s involvement in the arts is so low in the area with the intention of testing these theories through a public consultation.

The stakeholders identified that an issue with ‘consultation’ is that people can only put forward an opinion about the things they have already done or seen and that this could be problematic in an area where opportunities to take part in the arts are often perceived by residents as being limited. The thinking behind the Transported consultation phase was therefore to provide real and innovative arts experiences for people to challenge their thinking and make them more open to the idea of talking about what taking part in the arts meant to them. The intention was to create a rich qualitative data set that could be analysed and used to inform the delivery phase of the programme, ensuring that future strands were developed and planned to be responsive to the needs, interests and locations of the communities of South Holland and Boston Borough.

Description of creative research method

The museum pitched up in a variety of locations during the Transported consultation, (a summer fayre, supermarket, church, truck-stop and market) and was accompanied by 2 Community Researchers on every trip who used a structured questionnaire to gather qualitative data from visitors. To supplement this process we created a reflective blog post illustrated with photographs and completed an artist evaluation for each trip.


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Why did you choose to use this method? 

The familiar space of the caravan combined with the surprise of its unusual collection and location encouraged interaction from an audience who ordinarily may not have considered visiting a museum. This created a relaxed environment which encouraged natural openings for conversations with visitors about what taking part in the arts meant to them, the current provision in their area and their aspirations for the future. By structuring the research around an arts experience that was seen as non-threatening and accessible we were able to encourage visitors to complete a questionnaire with the Community Researchers without them feeling pressurised or as if the process had no relevance to them.

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What did you learn from the research process? 

As creative practitioners we learnt a huge amount about working effectively within a research team. We found that the research process worked best when there was a seamless link for the visitor between the act of experiencing the museum and the gathering of data from them. The more experienced of the Community Researchers were able to use conversations that occurred naturally between ourselves and visitors as a lead into their questionnaires, homogenizing the two parts of the process.

The biggest challenge for Transported as an organisation has been how best to analyse and present the vast quantity of qualitative data collected during the consultation phase (the Moveable Museum was one of over 30 artist-led activities) and to clearly evidence how findings will influence future strands of the programme. This is work in progress and although the consultation was not a piece of academic research, support from academic partners from the University of Lincoln will ensure that the findings are scrutinised with rigour and presented in a way which is transparent and accessible to all of the project’s stakeholders.


Stephen Willats – Artwork as Social Model

Further information

View a short film about The Moveable Museum of Found Objects