Tricia Austin | Central Saint Martins, London, UK

Cinema Museum: Film Karaoke

Designing audience engagement is key to developing meaningful museum visitor experiences. This paper explores how the space for audience engagement can, through creative design strategies, be extended to the museum locale, in other words, into the urban fabric around museums; and, how the interior of the museum can be designed as a magnet for visitor interpretation and active engagement with museum content.

This paper describes and evaluates a project, funded by Arts Council England. The initiative is a partnership between the Cinema Museum and Central Saint Martins College of Arts & Design, which is seeking novel and sustainable models for developing and activating audiences through strategic design. It is intended that the outcomes be scalable, transferable and shared among networks of small museums in the UK. It is envisaged that partnerships with universities will enable small museums, which are particularly cash strapped, to manage risk and positively embrace change.

Here strategic design involves developing a series of related interventions and participatory events. The narrative environment includes the public realm around the shopping areas near the museum, where five-minute pop-up dramas will be performed. Cinema chairs, popcorn and usherettes in uniform will temporarily transform the spaces. Shoppers will be invited to sit and watch while actors perform excerpts from famous films. The design approach references recent pop-up cinema and successful examples of viral marketing using pop-up drama. Family audiences at these interventions will be invited to special events at the Cinema Museum where they can take the stage in “film karaoke”.

The novelty of the project is, firstly, the direct, drama-based, engagement with local residents outside the museum and, secondly, the positioning of the Cinema Museum as a place where families can literally enter the screen and actively play the roles in excerpts from famous films. Thirdly, by being “in the film” the family audiences will be able to engage with the Cinema Museum collection of posters, cinema tickets, projectors, films, usherette uniforms etc, from a fresh perspective.

The project will be implemented in April 2012, and should foster a new local family audience and enhance the reputation of the Cinema Museum as a social destination. The project is carefully costed to insure a profit margin that will allow for further investment.

This paper will include still and video documentation and an evaluation of the design process, the outcomes and their impact and transferability.