The Science Museum’s new communication technology gallery, Information Age puts people and their stories at the heart of its narrative. As part of this step change towards people-focused interpretation, we are working with audiences in the generation and framing of objects and content. Seeking to connect visitors to their heritage in unique and powerful ways has opened new avenues for content research and development. Our objects are host to many memories; but how do we extract these stories, and how can they be woven into the fabric of the gallery, in harmony with historical context, technical detail and scientific content? One example of these stories is the emergence and resulting culture of mobile telecommunication in Cameroon. Many of the user stories, and unique perspectives on the experience of change, are held within the Cameroonian community. The museum decided to test a participatory methodology with the Cameroonian community in London, ensuring we presented this technological and cultural revolution in the most authentic way and deal with possible colonial preconceptions. One of the challenges was collecting in a foreign country to try and gather artefacts that are representative of that culture. From 2011, members of the London Cameroon community were consulted, and we drew on their expert local knowledge to inform and influence a planned object collecting trip to Cameroon in early 2012. This paper will take a closer look at the process of participation and community engagement in the role of sharing local knowledge for an international audience. It focuses on the representation of Cameroonians and their culture in a museum context, which paradoxically also brings an international story in a national museum setting. It will explore the Museum’s processes of building a collaborative team, both in London and Cameroon. In summary it will reflect on the research findings and lessons learned which will inform best practices. This paper will finish by briefly describing some of the other international stories about mobile technology which were considered for Information Age, and how the Science Museum decided what would eventually be included in the gallery.

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Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Cameroon and mobile telephony
Telling the story of technological change ‘in their own words’ - global knowledge from a local perspective

Deanne Naula   Science Museum,United Kingdom

Charlotte Connelly   Science Museum, United Kingdom

The Science Museum’s new communication technology gallery, Information Age puts people and their stories at the heart of its narrative. As part of this step change towards people-focused interpretation, we are working with audiences in the generation and framing of objects and content. Seeking to connect visitors to their heritage in unique and powerful ways has opened new avenues for content research and development. Our objects are host to many memories; but how do we extract these stories, and how can they be woven into the fabric of the gallery, in harmony with historical context, technical detail and scientific content? One example of these stories is the emergence and resulting culture of mobile telecommunication in Cameroon. Many of the user stories, and unique perspectives on the experience of change, are held within the Cameroonian community. The museum decided to test a participatory methodology with the Cameroonian community in London, ensuring we presented this technological and cultural revolution in the most authentic way and deal with possible colonial preconceptions. One of the challenges was collecting in a foreign country to try and gather artefacts that are representative of that culture. From 2011, members of the London Cameroon community were consulted, and we drew on their expert local knowledge to inform and influence a planned object collecting trip to Cameroon in early 2012. This paper will take a closer look at the process of participation and community engagement in the role of sharing local knowledge for an international audience. It focuses on the representation of Cameroonians and their culture in a museum context, which paradoxically also brings an international story in a national museum setting. It will explore the Museum’s processes of building a collaborative team, both in London and Cameroon. In summary it will reflect on the research findings and lessons learned which will inform best practices. This paper will finish by briefly describing some of the other international stories about mobile technology which were considered for Information Age, and how the Science Museum decided what would eventually be included in the gallery.

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.

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