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Cornwall Museums Partnership

St Ives Shipwreck Project

Last year, the curator of St Ives Museum Andy Smith showed me a model that has been in a corner of the museum for as long as anyone can remember. Although it was an undoubtedly lovely model of a shipwreck and the use of the “breeches buoy” to rescue stranded sailors, it did lack a little something and he asked if I would be able to make it more immersive and exciting- especially for younger visitors. There was also a further caveat of having little to no budget for doing this work!

Always happy for a challenge, we quickly realised that we’d need some input from young people as to what they’d like to see. This seemed like a fantastic opportunity to harness the thriving “maker space” community and I reached out to Robert Wiltshire at Software Cornwall who runs “Tech Jams” across the Duchy. These events are wonderful places where people come together to build, hack, code and create amazing things using programming and generally low cost computing components. Through one of these events, Robert met Jayne Richards, a teacher from Wadebridge Academy, who was looking for a project for her Year 7 “creativity club”.

So it was that I found myself carefully transporting a shipwreck model up to Wadebridge where it lived in the school for a term. The creativity club students were amazing, immediately seeing the potential and coming up with incredible ideas immediately. We would have loved to have put them all into practice but sadly wind machines and VR games were a little out of our budget. Nevertheless, we settled on a number of enhancements that we thought would be possible- lightning and sound effects, a screen at the back to provide a realistic backdrop and all activated by motion detection sensors. Robert led a number of sessions showing the students how to code these effects while they also sourced the imagery and sound effects.

The model returned home with its new immersive setup earlier this year and we did a live stream from the museum to show the students it working in its new place. We’ve done a few refinements since then (volume controls were needed- it was very loud!!) and continue to modify the finished design.

Robert from Software Cornwall and Andy from St Ives Museum live streaming the shipwreck model to Wadebridge School students

Robert from Software Cornwall and Andy from St Ives Museum live streaming the shipwreck model to Wadebridge School students

This project really demonstrates the power of co-design even on the smallest of projects. When you get a brilliant combination of people with expertise from all sorts of backgrounds, it enhances the outcomes massively. It was wonderful to see secondary school students so engaged with the exhibition and their excitement was infectious! It’s also a great example of how high-tech additions to museum displays don’t have to break the bank- I’ve written more about this in another post here.

A huge thank you to Mrs. Richards and her Creativity Club at Wadebridge Academy, Robert Wiltshire at Software Cornwall for his time and expertise and Andy Smith at St Ives Museum for trusting us with their model.

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