The Museum is embarking on its second co-curated exhibition since the July 2011 opening of the new Sammy Ofer Wing and the Compass Lounge - a dedicated space for participatory displays developed by the Museum and the public together. The Compass Lounge is a place to make new connections with our collections, and to offer alternative and multiple perspectives to the Museum’s interpretation of what’s on display.

We’ve invited members of the Museum’s active Flickr community to curate a display of historical photographs from our collection, to give our audiences a chance to highlight objects and images that are significant to them. Over the next few weeks those taking part in the project will add their views and thoughts to the Museum’s Collections Blog. Here’s Duncan on his first impressions:

On 14 April 2012 the assorted members of the Curate the Collection group met for the first time at the National Maritime Museum. For me personally, it was the first time I have visited Greenwich or the National Maritime Museum. I had no real expectations for the meeting apart from a desire to see how exhibitions are constructed in a museum space using both interactive content and user opinion/feedback. Armed with my historical hat on I approached the meeting with increasing excitement. I spent the morning exploring Royal Greenwich and after being surrounded by Maritime buildings, pubs and boats (Cutty Sark) I was ready to begin debating. I was very encouraged by the diversity of personalities, ages and opinions amongst the group – all brought together by a mutual appreciation of Flickr and its communal spirit.


“Curate the Collection” Flickr group looking serious and listening intently to the project outline! By benicektoo on Flickr.

The breadth of individual interests certainly complicated our attempts to ascertain a common theme for our project. This was further complicated by the wealth of available archive material that we could have access to. Our resources include the Flickr Commons, the National Maritime Museum digitalised collection and a planned visit to the photographic archive at the Brass Foundry. As a group we were also introduced to ‘The Compass Lounge’ exhibition space and caught a tangible glimpse of our future interactive exhibition space. Marrying both digital and print photography in an interactive space may pose some interesting challenges for the group but I was again encouraged by the plethora of imaginative ideas.

I was also surprised to learn that only about 1% of the NMM’s photographic collection has been digitalised. If anything this project will hopefully be a reason to digitalise individual images that would not usually see the light of day outside of the NMM collection.

Next stop the Brass Foundry!

Our project team have an external blog of their own charting this collaborative process at curatethecollection.wordpress.com