skip to main content

Essential coronavirus info
Your safety is our first priority.

Museum Engagement as Speculative Design

People watching a performance at Horniman Museum and Gardens.

Drawing upon Dunne and Raby’s idea that design speculations can promote discussion and debate, as well as proposing alternative narratives to the ways things are now, this one-day symposium considered how speculative design might be used to explore museum spaces and their potential to be reconfigured as social platforms.

15 March 2019, Camberwell College of Arts

fiona raby and dan byrne smith in conversation at museum engagement as speculative design symposium
Fiona Raby and Dan Byrne-Smith in conversation at the Museum Engagement as Speculative Design Symposium (15 March 2019, Camberwell College of Arts). - Credit: Photo: Lori Demata Caption

If speculative design can be a catalyst for redefining reality, what are the implications for how concepts of audience engagement might be imagined in and around museums and other spaces of collection and display?

Dan Byrne-Smith chairs the panel with (left to right) Amy Butt, Mariana Pestana and Florence Okoye, at the Museum Engagement as Speculative Design Symposium (15 March 2019, Camberwell College of Arts).
Dan Byrne-Smith chairs the panel with (left to right) Amy Butt, Mariana Pestana and Florence Okoye, at the Museum Engagement as Speculative Design Symposium (15 March 2019, Camberwell College of Arts). - Credit: Photo: Lori Demata Caption

Bringing together practitioners from different fields, the event offered a trans-disciplinary approach in exploring the following questions:

  • How can interpretative tools be applied to collections?
  • How can dialogue and discussion be stimulated?
  • Can exploring design through problems rather than solutions encourage agency and action in museum audiences?
  • Are there effective techniques for responding to the urgent challenges presented in today’s world?

Speakers:

  • Amy Butt - practising architect and a lecturer in Architecture at the University of Reading with a specialisation in architectural representation and communication)
  • Jason Cleverly - Course Leader for BA Product and Furniture at Chelsea College of Arts
  • Amy Cutler - Artist, geographer and curator who creates expanded cinema performances and installations
  • Florence Okoye - User experience and service designer
  • Mariana Pestana - Portuguese architect and curator
  • Fiona Raby - co-directs the Designed Realities Studio with Anthony Dunne at The New School in New York
Q&A at the Museum Engagement as Speculative Design Symposium (15 March 2019, Camberwell College of Arts).
Q&A at the Museum Engagement as Speculative Design Symposium (15 March 2019, Camberwell College of Arts). - Credit: Photo: Lori Demata Caption

Museum Engagement as Speculative Design Symposium was convened by Dr Dan Byrne-Smith, Senior Lecturer in Fine Art Theory at Chelsea College of Arts, emerging out of his role as Art, Design and Natural History Fellow at the Horniman Museum.

Exploring the Horniman Museum: Workshop with Dr Dan Byrne-Smith

display case containing various size bugs
Display case from a workshop with Emma Louise Nicholls at the Horniman Museum and Gardens, led by Dr Dan Byrne-Smith. - Credit: Photo: Fari Bradley Caption

Students were invited to take part in a rare opportunity to explore the Horniman Museum with Dr Dan Byrne-Smith, the Camberwell, Chelsea, Wimbledon and Horniman Museum Art, Design and Natural History Fellow, and to meet members of the Museum’s curatorial staff.

The workshop involved discussions of the spaces of display to gain an understanding of what goes on behind the scenes, as well as in the galleries.

museum curator showing students archival objects
Camberwell, Chelsea and Wimbledon Colleges of Arts students at a workshop with Emma Louise Nicholls at the Horniman Museum and Gardens, led by Dr Dan Byrne-Smith. - Credit: Photo: Fari Bradley Caption

The workshop was open to all art and design students. This unique learning experience invited students to think about the idea of speculative design - a term that draws upon approaches in both fine art and design related fields. It offered an introduction to the Horniman Museum and Gardens, and an opportunity for students to learn more about the themes of Dan Byrne-Smith’s fellowship.

Students who took part in the workshop were given free places to attend the Museum Engagement as Speculative Design symposium and to engage in critical dialogue.