With New Eyes I See

Posted by: Dr Jenny Kidd

With New Eyes... explores whether documentary can  become an experience or a journey beyond the screen
With New Eyes… explores whether documentary can become an experience or a journey beyond the screen

In 2013/14 Cardiff University entered into a partnership with creative marketing firm yello brick to build an immersive itinerant documentary experience called With New Eyes I See.

The project was funded by REACT, and supported by Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales. With New Eyes I See sought to identify new ways of communicating the experience of those who worked at the Museum who left to fight in World War One, some never to return. It was an experiment in research, documentation, curation and creation.

This project explored how locative documentary techniques and gaming architectures might be combined to reach new audiences for archival materials and heritage organisations. It was hoped this experience-based documentary format could inspire participation and therefore extend learning and understanding in that kind of context.

Groups of participants gathered at dusk and were given a map plus torch which housed a projector. They navigated their way around Cathays Park in the centre of the City accessing documentary fragments at a number of sites including the WW1 memorial, the outer museum walls, and the Temple of Peace, but also on trees, park benches, and ‘found’ objects. In WNEIS, audience members encountered a re-scripting and multiple layering of the cityscape, they (literally and metaphorically) projected a new narrative onto the spaces they often encountered in their every day.

Our user tests revealed that the format (1) offered a radically different mechanism for accessing museums’ knowledge and triggering learning about – and ‘experiencing’ – the past, (2) changed visitor behaviours in a multitude of ways, including increasing the sociality of the encounter and sense of empowerment within the experience, (3) changed peoples’ relationship with the space of the encounter and (4) could help diversify the range of visitors and even funding streams available to museums.

We have now successfully bid for a continuation of the project which is being supported by the ESRC’s Impact Acceleration Award Scheme via the University. The Museum is now on board as an official project partner, and the next iteration of the project will be at St Fagans National History Museum.

The official launch of the experience will be in Spring 2016. Regular updates will be posted over the coming months.