The Museum as a Platform for Sound Culture
In the twenty-first century, museums are in the midst of a paradigm shift. Digital revolution has introduced new spaces, practices, types of heritage, as well as ways to conceive the museum itself. This PhD research investigates the role that sound culture could have in this evolution. After two centuries of primacy of visual and material culture, sound has received growing attention both as an element of the collections and means of designing experiences, disrupting previous assumptions and requiring new ways of thinking. This thesis explores if the variety of ways through which sounds are consumed, shared and created in the contemporary society can be a catalyst for the adoption of a new museum conceptualization: the ‘Platform-Museum’.
In the first stage of the research, a case study approach was applied, to investigate the strategies and practices in sound curation on digital platforms developed by two world class heritage organizations: the British Library and the Science Museum Group. The results of this qualitative research then informed a design experiment in a museum context, where Platform Thinking was applied to the co-design of a sonic practice. As a result, a collaborative online project - #SonicFriday - was developed in summer 2020 at the National Science and Media Museum in Bradford, which involved museum curators, volunteers and social media users in the creation of sonic narratives and digital memories.
The findings reveal how the solutions adopted to answer the challenges posed by sound can accelerate the adoption of the Platform Model. The sonic practices experimented in the research have prompted a shift to a more emotional, personal and participatory approach to curation, showing how sound can offer a new philosophy, as well as tools and practices, to orient museums in the contemporary society. The thesis ultimately demonstrates how the new conceptualization of the ‘Platform-Museum’ can open new, thriving perspectives for the practices of collecting, curating and engaging in the twenty-first century, so inaugurating a new chapter in the history of heritage institutions.