Unlocking Collections: Hearts, Minds and Digital Directions


Rachel Macfarlane
Project Officer
Colchester and Ipswich Museum Service
Email: rachel.macfarlane@colchester.gov.uk
Tel: 01473 433556 or 01206 506936  Mob: 07961 231642

Colchester and Ipswich Museum Service has been piloting a new way of using museum collections. The “Unlocked” project took 15 objects from the world collections at Ipswich and 15 objects from the Roman archaeology at Colchester and ran with them.  Not literally (don’t panic, conservators!), but by making community connections, linking responses to documentation, and using digital technology – we have explored many new directions.

IPSMG. P.R.1928-75.39 - Duck carvingThe 30 objects include a carved wooden duck, a Roman tile with footprints and a jet bead in the shape of a bear. They are on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest and have all featured in social media campaigns, comments, tweets and pin-boards. Each object has sparked discussion and inspired creative activity. Over 2200 people and 32 artists have sculpted, drawn, published, presented, computer programmed, filmed, edited, laughed and performed in response to these 30 objects.

It’s exciting to think how communities have connected, and will continue to connect with museum collections over time. How the documentation of people’s responses to the 30 objects will leave a legacy of today for tomorrow.  How digital technology can act as a tool to document but to also present new ideas.

As the ‘Unlocked’ project enters its final weeks we are reflecting on the learning and experiences of everyone involved, and asking you, if and how this contributes to our development as a sector. Our ‘Unlocking Collections’ seminar will take place at the re-opened Colchester Castle on Thursday 22nd May.  We would encourage you to join the discussion, bring your own challenges, and let’s explore how documentation and digital technology can capture audience responses to collections.

Click here to book for this exciting seminar at Colchester Castle.


_DSC5356The ‘Unlocked’ project team have joined the SHARE East Community Cohort and will be attending the Working With Communities seminar at the Museum of East Anglian Life on Tuesday the 29th April. Working closely with partners at Suffolk County Council the activity between Ipswich Museum and its community groups has been shortlisted for a ‘Raising the Bar’ award, recognising its contribution to improving young people’s aspirations and achievements in Suffolk. In Stowmarket we look forward to hearing colleague’s ideas about how to develop relationships with community groups.

Click here to book for the Community Engagement Seminar on 29th April.

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