Feb 28, 2014
Posted by Katie Bradburn
Collecting, as a hobby, is often associated with coins or postage stamps; Nicholas Sarkozy is said to be a keen philatelist, as is Maria Sharapova, although some slightly more unusual personal collections include Pez dispensers and purple glassware, or even skulls. In our Skulls app, Simon Winchester notes that ‘though [skull collecting] may at first seem macabre and bizarre’, it ‘has the added benefit of being entirely educational’.
Yet, it may often seem as if there are a multitude of obstacles to engaging with a physical collection. We sometimes have little time and little space to pursue the art of collecting, which can also be a slightly expensive interest when trying to source very rare or sought-after stuff. It can also be tricky to share a personal collection with a wider community, if it is stored at home or composed of bulky items. It may just not even be possible to collect items of interest, especially when dealing with something that can contain dangerous objects.
Even when museums and other public institutions hold physical collections, it’s not always feasible for enthusiasts to visit and interact with the objects on display. Digital platforms are emerging as a useful resource in this respect, as new digitisation projects mean that people are able to engage with historic, precious or unusual items that they may not be able to see in person. At Touch Press, we have worked closely with institutions such as the Science Museum on creating apps like Journeys of Invention, enabling users from all over the world to explore fascinating objects from the museum’s collections, no matter where they are. To us, this is a fantastic way of opening up the museum to people who may not be able to visit it in person, as well as being an unusual way of accessing each object’s story and seeing new links between different inventions thanks to the interactive ‘map’.
Even a unique (and occasionally dangerous) collection like the periodic table can be explored through an app such as The Elements or The Elements in Action. The ability to digitally access the periodic table makes a huge difference in how we can learn about and interact with individual elements – the app format brings a wealth of data and information together, along with 3D rotatable samples that breathe life into the digital collection.
A particularly interesting new format of digital collection can be found over at The Collectionary. One of the great things about a platform like this is that it makes it easier to virtually display a collection by sharing photos and facts online. The Collectionary connects people from all over the world via a shared love of everything from Disney memorabilia to vintage fashion pieces, opening up a global collecting community and allowing users to discover other collections that they may not have explored before.
Websites like The Collectionary, and apps like Journeys of Invention and The Elements, are intriguing examples of how digital platforms can change the way we interact with collections and the way that we can share our passions with others through technology.