Categories
research

Telling our stories of COVID-19

Our mission is to help museums increase access to their collections, and connect people through shared histories. We are in an important historical moment now, so we would like to help gather stories about it.

We’ve noticed already there are projects popping up about what it’s like to live in this moment, alongside COVID-19. We’re hoping to connect to the archivists who are running those, thinking we could gather audio now, for presentation later.

If you know of a project like this, please feel free to add an entry to the Google spreadsheet we’ve opened to gather links.

It’s definitely a bit tricky to know what to add… arguably ALL OF TWITTER is a date-bound, hash-tagged oral history of what’s happening. But, we’re specifically after deliberate oral history projects asking for submissions, ideally audio stories.

In my early research, I also stumbled on the World Health Organisation’s oral history archive, which I may have a poke at as we all wait.

Categories
design education research

Tortoise, not hare: taking care developing our #homeEd approach

We’ve begun working on what it can mean for families to have a Box at home. It’s a place we have imagined Boxes to be since we started the company, so we’re excited to have this new opportunity. I’ve referred before to those old photos of a family sitting around a gigantic radio in their lounge, the radio practically its hearth.

We have also declared this lady our spiritual guide for this phase of “A Box at Home” product development:

On Tuesday, we had a great international Zoom with the MB team (George, Charlie, Kate, and Renata), Sara Cardello (Head of Education at Smithsonian Libraries, and Mum to Bruno), Jocelyn Swanson (Montessori secondary educator), and, last but not least, Brittany Berry, whose school recently purchased nine Make Your Own kits to use across the school.

I wanted to hear from Brittany about how the school had been using the kits, and it’s brilliant! (About 30-40 kids creating content, assuming various different roles in the production process, like writer, audio editor, 3D scanner etc). The school is part of a brilliant program called EAST, or Education Accelerated by Service and Technology. The students engage in real-world projects in their communities, learning 21st Century creative and critical skills as they go. You can see some of the collections being developed on Heart.

You can review the call agenda (and my notes in the doc) if you have all the time in the world. And anyone using that link can add a comment – please do if you have something to add!

We’re still parsing that very first discussion, and we’re yet to come together as a group again — because pandemic??! — but I plan to post here as there’s more to show, or ask.

Our rough outline for next steps are:

  • Summarise key directions for public consumptions
  • Create some first draft resources to publish on the website about project ideas (but being aware that the whole internet is full of them right now, and in spite of this, kids are feral and that’s fine!)
  • Rough pass at a user research trial plan
  • Have another chat with the project team

Two early ideas about projects that could be done at home which aren’t explicitly connected to a Box but easily could be are:

  1. Tell and record your family’s history, or
  2. Keep a diary of what it’s like to live through this.

Telling our stories of COVID-19

We’ve noticed already there are projects popping up about this, and we’d like to try to gather links to them where we can. Maybe there’s a project on it later, maybe we can use them as examples for people who might like to try an audio diary. Maybe it’ll be nothing!

Read more about Telling Our Stories of COVID-19?

Get involved?

If you’re an educator or a parent, and interested to contribute or otherwise participate in our research and design process, the best way to start is to join our dedicated #educators channel on our public Slack that anyone can join, if you’d like to join in to discuss this work, or hear about new resources.

Categories
education get help packaging

Museum in a Box Handling During a Global Pandemic

Well, I surely never thought I’d type that headline. But, there you go. Here we are. I’m actually co-writing this blog post with my brother, Dr. Andy Oates. He’s a biologist and professor working at the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL). It’s been reassuring to have the odd chat with him as the world descends, and we’ve come up with a list of suggestions and tips for you, about handling your Box and objects safely. 

First some terminology: Fomites are inanimate objects or materials that can carry infection, such as clothes, utensils, and furniture, or Museums in Boxes. The term fomite comes from the Latin word for tinder (not the dating app). Scientists have been testing a range of materials to figure out how they relate to the transmission of COVID-19, and figuring out how long the virus can survive on surfaces. Andy will point you to the relevant scientific papers on that if you want more detail. Charlie also wrote about cleaning your Box and objects if you have one in our newsletter this week, so I’ve reposted that too, at the bottom of this post.

The main enemies of COVID-19 are distance, time, and soap. Here’s what Dr. Andy has to say about those:

Distance 

When we cough or sneeze, or even when we yawn or just exhale, we release a mix of droplets and aerosols in our breath. Kind of gross, but there you are. (If you want to know how much water you breathe out, weigh yourself just before you go to bed, and again in the morning.) Droplets are relatively large and heavy, and so they crash to the ground or whatever other surface is around very quickly. Keeping your distance at about 2 metres from another person means you are unlikely to be hit. Aerosols are much smaller, and so stay aloft much longer. This means that in a closed room or other space (car, bus, pub, etc.), the range is much longer. However, it also means that by opening the windows, or by going outside, the risk of aerosol transmission is dramatically reduced, as the tiny particles are diluted more quickly. 

Time

Another way infection is spread is via surfaces, the fomites mentioned above. You’ll recall that when our aerosols or droplets touch a surface, or when we touch our nose or mouth and then a door handle, virus are transferred to that surface. But how long do they survive there? A team of scientists at the National Institutes of Health in the USA looked at the survival time of SARS-Cov-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, in various situations that mimic how we might typically spread and encounter it in daily life. 

You can read Aerosol and Surface Stability of SARS-CoV-2
as Compared with SARS-CoV-1
in the New England Journal of Medicine if you wish, and there are also lots of  media reports floating around, and I have summarized their findings below:

They first created an aerosol in the air that mimicked the density found in the lungs and mouth of an infected human, and deposited it on various surfaces like copper, stainless steel, plastic, and cardboard. At defined time intervals after deposition, they transferred any remaining virus into a petri dish containing kidney cells and counted the number of cells that became infected. This is a tried and trusted method for detecting very small numbers of virus that are still infectious. 

They found that the virus was undetectable after three hours in the aerosol, four hours on copper, 24 hours on cardboard and up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel. The amount of virus decreased rapidly in this time (exponentially), so an important lesson is the longer you leave something sitting there, the safer it becomes. For example, if you get a package or letter in the post, put it aside and even if there were virus on it, a day later they will be inactive. Just doing nothing is quite a safe option. 

Soap

Wash your hands! Seriously, this is one of the most important and easy things you can do. Humans continually touch their faces and the surfaces around them, potentially transferring virus back and forth. Yet, despite the potentially deadly nature of SARS-Cov-2, it cannot withstand 20 seconds of contact with warm soapy water. This is because it’s outer shell is partly made of fatty lipids (a lipid bilayer envelope), and our normal household soap or washing-up liquid has been optimised over centuries to break up fatty lipids.  Here’s a great diagram:

Why soap works against the coronavirus

Thanks, Andy. That’s just science-y enough, and very helpful.

OK, so, we want to provide a bit more information on receiving and using your Box, based on this research about fomites (and distance, time, and soap).

When You Receive Your Box

All our packaging is either cardboard or brown paper or string, so it’s a pretty safe bet any sign of the virus would have disappeared from those materials in transit. If you are getting a single Box, your Box will also be inside a polythene mail bag. If you’re getting a Large Org kit or extra Boxes, we may have put them in a larger cardboard container. Those bags or boxes are what’ll have been touched last. 

As tantalising as it is to open it up and get cracking, we’d suggest you pop your parcel in some kind of no-touch zone, for at *least* 24 hours, maybe even 48 hours. After that time, you should be good to go.

If You Already Have A Box, As You Use Your Box, or Share It With Others

Please be sure to look at keeping things clean as you go, per the following suggestions. Water and electronics don’t mix, so make sure everything is unplugged if you’re cleaning.

Cleaning Acrylic Boxes

  1. Wear gloves. 
  2. Use a diluted disinfectant or watery soap solution and a damp-but-not-wet cloth to wipe down the Box. (Why is soap better than bleach?)
    1. Boxes may experience some discoloration if a cleaning solution is too strong. 
  3. Avoid wiping the inside of the Box or electronics or inside the power or AUX jacks, but do wipe the volume knob! 
  4. Ensure the Box is completely dry before turning it on again. 

Cleaning Plywood Boxes

  1. This is harder. The plywood is “raw”, but you could try giving it a careful wipe, as above.
  2. Probably easiest to remove them from circulation, like Dan did at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge.

Cleaning 3D objects

  1. In most cases these are made of PLA (Polylactic acid) so you can also use a diluted disinfectant or soap solution. 
  2. Don’t submerge the objects unless they have intricate areas you can’t easily wipe. 
  3. The NFC tags adhere well to the objects but may work loose if they’re repeatedly submerged and become damaged, and
  4. Again make sure the objects are dry before using again. 

Cleaning 2D postcards

  1. Cards we’ve supplied through a commission, are likely laminated, so will hold up to a wipe. 
  2. Uncoated cards or paper may not hold up well to wiping and may cause colours to run. 
  3. If you have a laminator to hand laminate away! This will make cleaning with a wet cloth much easier and will extend the life of your cards. 

The plastic power plug can also be wiped in the same way but avoid any metal connections and be sure it is completely dry before using again. 

Finally, be sure to wash your hands often and avoid touching your face. And, please pay attention to the distancing rules in your area. This animation of the exponential-ness of infection in the USA is a good slap:


Watch How The Coronavirus Spread Across the United States
on The New York Times website, 22 March 2020

Good luck.

Categories
company news get help training

Training Days!

“Thank you for your hospitality and making things as simple as possible to understand.”

– Tracy Linsley, Tees Valley Museums

Making a collection for a Museum in a Box involves a number of different activities: curating a set of objects, writing stories, recording audio, and writing content to the Box. It takes a lot of thought and effort to produce compelling content. With that in mind, we recently started offering Training Day Workshops in our shop to offer support for those just getting started.

Last week we were delighted to welcome Tracy and Jo from Tees Valley Museums to HQ for a Training Day. They had purchased two Boxes to use as part of their outreach and participation with families in the local area and were looking for specific help with creating and editing great audio.

The Workshop

After welcoming Tracy and Jo at HQ and getting settled we talked about how the Box will be used and what the team have already started doing in preparation for using their Box. They recently bought a Zoom mic and have already been recording children’s responses to objects.

They had also been working on object lists for two different collections so we decided to use those as a springboard. We selected one object from each list that we would use to go through all the steps involved in creating and adding content and connecting it to an NFC sticker.

First we printed out the object images, mounted them on some card and added the stickers. We find this method of creating rough comps really useful as it helps to figure out whether the object and audio in question will work well. We can then make changes and push an idea along much faster.

Next we got the team set up with accounts on our Heart platform, and after a quick look round, set up a collection ready for them to start adding the objects and audio to.

Tracy and Jo didn’t have any experience of using audio editing. At HQ, we use Audacity because it’s free, does everything we need, and is quick to pick up. So after a quick walkthrough, we split into two groups to edit the children’s responses, working through things like trimming, amplifying, and adding sound effects to the tracks.

Below you can see the result of those efforts and hear the wondrous responses to the objects from the visitors! First there’s Jo’s Zebrite Grate Polish card which prompts us to remember that people like museum objects for all kinds of reasons..

Jo’s Zebrite workshop audio

and then there’s Tracy’s £5 note with responses about locomotion, George Stephenson, and ‘the biggest five pound note ever!’

£5 pound note mockup card
Tracy’s £5 notes workshop audio

It was great to see Tracy and Jo pick up Audacity so quickly, and also how a base level of digital knowledge for a tool can be all you need to get going. Both said how enthused they were to go away and do more audio editing, including with their own children! Audio editing can often seem a scary thing on the surface but once you know the basics it turns into a really creative and fun process!

Uploading content to the Heart platform.

After editing and exporting our .WAV audio files it was time for Tracy and Jo to upload the content they’d made to the collection on Heart. Watching how users navigate around the site is also really helpful to us as it’s showing us how we can improve it in the future.

Jo and Tracy booping their cards for the first time!

With the audio online, we fired up the Boxes and went through the process of adding a new collection to a Box and writing stickers to make them play the right audio. There was a great sense of anticipation and excitement after we had heard the objects booping for the first time, as well as a real sense of achievement all round. All that just in time for our guests to dash off and catch their train back home.

We were delighted to host Tracy and Jo, and learned a lot from it too. We’re able to tailor workshops to your needs, so if you’ve bought a Box or are considering buying one but would like some guidance using it, do get in touch and see if one of our Training Day Workshops is right for you.

Training Day Workshops can be purchased in the shop.

Categories
education

Free online education resources for homeschooling

All of a sudden, we find ourselves in such strange times. Charlie and I are working from home, but very happy to still fulfill an order for a Box – our online shop is still open, and we hope you’ll consider a purchase to support our tiny business! If you’re stuck at home with your family looking for something to do, what better time to create a family archive!

Friend of MB, Katy Beale, announced this excellent list of resources gathered by her home educators’ network on a (different) Slack network I belong to, and I thought I’d republish here, just in case there are parents out there stuck at home looking for resources.

Put together by the home ed community. feel free to share and use as and when you need it for the coming days and weeks… FREE online education resources

A non-exhaustive list that might help those affected by school closures due to coronavirus, compiled by home educators.

Feel free to share.

:heartpulse:

Khan Academy
https://www.khanacademy.org
Especially good for maths and computing for all ages but other subjects at Secondary level. Note this uses the U.S. grade system but it’s mostly common material.

BBC Learning
http://www.bbc.co.uk/learning/coursesearch/
This site is old and no longer updated and yet there’s so much still available, from language learning to BBC Bitesize for revision. No TV licence required except for content on BBC iPlayer.

Futurelearn
https://www.futurelearn.com
Free to access 100s of courses, only pay to upgrade if you need a certificate in your name (own account from age 14+ but younger learners can use a parent account).

Seneca
https://www.senecalearning.com
For those revising at GCSE or A level. Tons of free revision content. Paid access to higher level material.

Openlearn
https://www.open.edu/openlearn/
Free taster courses aimed at those considering Open University but everyone can access it. Adult level, but some e.g. nature and environment courses could well be of interest to young people.

Blockly
https://blockly.games
Learn computer programming skills – fun and free.

Scratch
https://scratch.mit.edu/explore/projects/games/
Creative computer programming

TED Ed
https://ed.ted.com
All sorts of engaging educational videos

National Geographic Kids
https://www.natgeokids.com/uk/
Activities and quizzes for younger kids.

Duolingo
https://www.duolingo.com
Learn languages for free. Web or app.

Mystery Science
https://mysteryscience.com
Free science lessons

The Kids Should See This
https://thekidshouldseethis.com
Wide range of cool educational videos

Crash Course
https://thecrashcourse.com
You Tube videos on many subjects

Crash Course Kids
https://m.youtube.com/user/crashcoursekids
As above for a younger audience

Crest Awards
https://www.crestawards.org
Science awards you can complete from home.

iDEA Awards
https://idea.org.uk
Digital enterprise award scheme you can complete online.

Paw Print Badges
https://www.pawprintbadges.co.uk
Free challenge packs and other downloads. Many activities can be completed indoors. Badges cost but are optional.

Tinkercad
https://www.tinkercad.com
All kinds of making.

Prodigy Maths
https://www.prodigygame.com
Is in U.S. grades, but good for UK Primary age.

Cbeebies Radio
https://www.bbc.co.uk/cbeebies/radio
Listening activities for the younger ones.

Nature Detectives
https://naturedetectives.woodlandtrust.org.uk/naturedetectives/
A lot of these can be done in a garden, or if you can get to a remote forest location!

British Council
https://www.britishcouncil.org/school-resources/find
Resources for English language learning

Twinkl
https://www.twinkl.co.uk
This is more for printouts, and usually at a fee, but they are offering a month of free access to parents in the event of school closures.

Toy Theater
https://toytheater.com/
Educational online games

DK Find Out
https://www.dkfindout.com/uk/?fbclid=IwAR2wJdpSJSeITf4do6aPhff8A3tAktnmpaxqZbkgudD49l71ep8-sjXmrac
Activities and quizzes

The Imagination Tree
https://theimaginationtree.com
Creative art and craft activities for the very youngest.

Red Ted Art
https://www.redtedart.com
Easy arts and crafts for little ones

The Artful Parent
https://www.facebook.com/artfulparent/
Good, free art activities

Blue Peter Badges
https://www.bbc.co.uk/cbbc/joinin/about-blue-peter-badges
If you have a stamp and a nearby post box.

Geography Games
https://world-geography-games.com/world.html
Geography gaming!

Big History Project
https://www.bighistoryproject.com/home
Aimed at Secondary age. Multi disciplinary activities.

Oxford Owl for Home
https://www.oxfordowl.co.uk/for-home/
Lots of free resources for Primary age

Categories
company news press

Museum in a Box tells our stories

As efforts to repatriate Africa’s artefacts continue, a Zulu collective has hit upon a digital solution.

BY LAURA GIBSON
Article on mg.co.za
(Links here added by the Museum in a Box team.)


Page 16 of the Mail & Guardian, March 13 to 19 2020

Twelve African heads of state, including President Cyril Ramaphosa, committed last month to “speed up the return of cultural assets” to the continent during the 33rd assembly of the African Union in Addis Ababa. Most of these cultural assets are still held captive by the old colonial powers in Europe. This renewed, high-level interest by African leaders in repatriating objects to their places of origin coincides with intensifying debates within Europe about decolonising museums there.

Britain consistent in its refusal to return the looted Greek Parthenon Marbles and other items now faces pressure from the European Union to repatriate the Marbles as part of the Brexit withdrawal agreement. Despite this, a British newspaper saw fit last month to question whether artefacts stolen during the colonial era meet the criteria to be returned to their rightful owners or descendants.

Such deeply embedded reluctance to confront this glaring aspect of Europe’s colonial past is made starker still by French President Emmanuel Macron’s efforts to facilitate the immediate restitution of African artefacts held in French museums to their original homes in Africa.

As calls to decolonise strengthen worldwide, repatriating artefacts to the people and places they were often brutally taken from is both urgent and complicated. The remarkable work of the Kenya-led International Inventories Programme shows just how hard it is to get European museums to share inventories and details of their collections in the first place. As they argue, people need first to find out what was taken from them.

But getting artefacts back is also just a first step. Returning high-profile pieces is an important part of the decolonisation process but it doesn’t, on its own, restore control over the history of the artefacts to communities that made and used them. Where colonialism was so pervasive was in its erasure of those histories, rewriting them once the artefacts entered museums. Even now, it’s rarely the people who made and used the artefacts who get to tell their stories and say why they’re important.

What headline-grabbing repatriation cases do not address is how to approach the thousands in some cases millions of similar items languishing in museum storerooms: artefacts that colonialists saw value in taken but that aren’t, now, considered valuable enough in European terms to permanently exhibit in museums, yet aren’t being given back either. Beyond the big-ticket items, we need to think about how we rewrite these stories, who it is that gets to tell them, and how.

Technology ranging from online, open-access museum databases to 3D proxy prints of artefacts is often touted as the solution to reunite people and objects torn apart during colonialism. But simply handling over images to Google to share far and wide does not solve the problem. Fundamental questions of who designs the databases, and who gets to control the data, reflect entrenched power dynamics that have historically left originating communities on the sidelines of their own history.

These debates about how to deploy new technologies are emblematic of a broader need to upend lingering colonial-style relationships, to shift power to that people can tell their own stories, in their own language, on their own terms.

There are ways, however, to use the power of technology to do just that. The Amagugu Ethu collective in KwaZulu-Natal an isiZulu-speaking group of artists, a nurse, a writer, an educator, a tour guide, and a sangoma is attempting that with their Museum in a Box.

Last year, during a visit to Cape Town, the collective identified and recorded stories for the Museum in a Box about Zulu artefacts collected in previous centuries for the country’s oldest museum now part of the Iziko Museums. In monetary terms, few of the artefacts selected have value. But, for this group, artefacts dismissed by museums as pots, medicine containers, herbs or beadwork objects chosen in colonial and apartheid days to “prove” how little civilised Africans were have rich histories and significance that resonate today. What the box does is give space to narrate these unwritten stories on their own terms.

The shoe-box sized museum is, technologically speaking, a simple device centred on a Raspberry Pi a credit-card sized computer that costs about $70 [South African rand]. Working with near-field communication tags, when a scaled 3D print or photograph of the artefact is placed on the box, it starts to “talk”, giving the object’s oral history through a built-in speaker.

Crucially, for Amagugu Ethu, the voices in the box are Zulu-speaking collaborators. The response to telling and hearing their own stories has been in the words of Nini Xulu emotional and affirming.

Nini Xulu

The collective exhibited the box at various heritage events in September. The aim is to place boxes in museums, schools and libraries across KwaZulu-Natal, and then work on expanding its collection to include Zulu artefacts held by museums across Europe and beyond.

Being low-cost and portable, the box provides people access in places where internet connectivity is limited and expensive. It is not a substitute for doing the soul-searching political work of repatriating the artefacts; decolonisation is more than repatriation, but cannot happen without it.

What the box may be is a new way of using technology to upend these old power dynamics and ask people to tell their stories, in their own way.

Dr Laura Kate Gibson is a lecturer in the department of digital humanities at King’s College London.

Categories
3D exhibition museum photogrammetry

New work: Photogrammetry for the new Medicine Galleries at the Science Museum!

The Science Museum recently released their Explore Museum Objects in 3D online resource and 20 new 3D models on Sketchfab to coincide with the opening of their new Medicine: The Wellcome Galleries.

In 2018, the museum approached us about the idea of scanning a set of objects for the upcoming galleries and we gladly accepted. Using photogrammetry we made a number of the 3D models in the final set. So let’s talk a little about the project and the awesome objects we were tasked with scanning!

The new Medicine Galleries include three thousand objects and showcase some truly amazing medical items. They’re all about ‘exploring our relationship with medicine and health through more than 500 years of history’ and include the world’s first MRI scanner and Alexander Fleming’s penicillin mould!

The process

We’ve created over 20 commissions now, and many of them have included 3D digitisation as a service. This was a little different because the resulting models were to be viewed digitally (and not printed), but we still used the same photogrammetry techniques.

We worked closely with Digital Learning Producers Emilia McKenzie and Josh Blair, whittling down a list of possible objects from the Medicine collection based on their ‘scan-ability’. We looked at material, reflectivity, and size while Josh and Emilia came at it from strength of curriculum links.

Seeing images of the objects in advance really helps with that initial selection, but seeing an object in the flesh is even better, so it was useful to arrange a site visit at Blythe House to preview the objects. There are two major steps to making 3D models: Photogrammetric capture, and making the digital models.

Photogrammetric capture

We set our gear up in a corner of the stores and did image capture over two weeks, averaging about 3 objects per day. The chosen objects varied massively in size and complexity from a large wooden 18th century barber-surgeon’s chair, to a box of matches, to a cast iron baby-weighing scale.

It was great to get up close with the objects and be surrounded by so many other wondrous artefacts in the Blythe House stores. We love going behind the scenes at different museums, in fact it’s a large part of why we started the company in the first place, so visiting was a real treat for us!

Charlie capturing photos of the beautiful Leeches jar, fortunately it’s not so beautiful content has long since been removed!

Making the digital models

Having captured high-res images of all the artefacts we began the job of processing them into models using Agisoft’s Photoscan (now Metashape). A couple of the objects proved challenging owing to their complexity. Manufactured objects are usually more complicated then sculptural/hand-made things, so our models of sculptures tend to be quite forgiving as they’re one mass, whereas machine-made objects like the baby weighing scales or carbolic sprayer are not.

With their uniform metallic parts like nuts and bolts and pressed sheet metal failing to mesh well, areas of the models looked a bit “crunchy”. Accuracy was key for these objects as the detail helped explain their function.

To solve this we recreated the object topology and remodelled several of the objects using the exported meshes of the original scans, and the photos as additional reference. After remodelling the objects to a suitably detailed level we could then import those to Metashape again for retexturing. The result is a neat model that represented the original and load quickly online.

The remodelled steam sprayer which was later animated by artist Sophie Dixon

The new 3D models

We produced 13 models which you can see on the museum’s Sketchfab page. Our favourites include

The museum’s Sketchfab page. All the models are downloadable under a CC Attribution-NonCommercial license.

Object-based learning

The Science Museum has developed tons of online classroom resources for teachers and educators as part of the project, using 3D models as the base. It’s a great way to introduce object-based learning into the classroom and to help fuel a student’s curiosity. The resources can be browsed through different fields including key stage, curriculum links, and subject.

Emilia and Josh also worked on providing useful supporting material as well such as scale (which is often overlooked with 3D models). There are also loads of discussion prompt questions like is it OK to exploit or harm animals to make humans better?

The Science Museum’s new learning resource site.

At Museum in a Box we’re obviously massive advocates for object-based learning! Mostly because objects are a great way to prompt questions, stimulate discussion and improve people’s critical thinking. What’s more, having a digital model or 3D print means you can move the object around and view it from all angles, something that’s just not possible with objects in a gallery setting.

Medicine: The Wellcome Galleries

We’re proud to have made a small contribution to the brand new Medicine: The Wellcome Galleries space at the Science Museum. It’s brilliant!

We were delighted to work on this digitisation project and play a part in growing the museum’s offering of digital resources. The Education team were great to work with and the outcome is a really well rounded set of resources that encapsulate the spirit of the new galleries perfectly!

We can provide 3D digitisation through our commissions so if you’re considering making a collection through Museum in a Box but don’t have the ability to do 3D in-house, do get in touch.

Categories
get help myomb

Help Video: Opening the Box

Now that we have a proper online shop, it’s time to get (more) serious about our customer care and help resources. Combine that with our new “deep work” afternoon practice, where we turn off the internet and do work we can really think about properly, we’ll be making a bunch of How To videos to help people out there in the wild look after their Boxes.

Here’s the first one, Opening the Box:

There’s also an FAQ page on our “Heart” website (the web platform where all the Collections live), and we have a public Museum in a Box Slack anyone can join, with a #get-help channel.

Categories
archive company news design

Hardware History

This week at HQ, we’ve started doing something called “deep work”. The people at Do Lectures, whose book we’re reading this month about writing good email newsletters, recommend it as a way to not be distracted by all the things that pop up in our lives now thanks to our phones and the web and all that. It’s good! We’re going to persist.

Our deep work mechanics at this stage are that I’ve set an alarm on my phone that goes off at 2pm, and again at 5pm, and in that window, we try not to use our phones and turn off the WiFi on our laptops.

One of the main jobs we have at the moment is to think more about sales and marketing. We haven’t especially done any yet, apart from talking about our work to people who mostly already know us, so we’d like to broaden our audience a bit – hence reading about writing better newsletters. Would you like to sign up for our newsletter? We thought we’d start with our homepage, which hasn’t been changed since we wrote it, really, back in 2016. (Not proud of that!). So, we’re working on that.

During that exercise, we were flung off into a lovely exercise of pulling things off our shelves, and arranging it — or knolling it — on our big work table. It was really satisfying to see how Museum in a Box has evolved.

Here’s a wobbly panorama of the whole scene to start with. Packaging, Box inserts, the Box and its various design branches, the “brain” which is all the hardware/software inside, our progress bar, and the sound elements, from volume knob selection to amplifier design.
You can see the Box insert cards, from the very first idea of a scribbled “Updates” card, to our current TRY ME! cards, which give people who’ve bought a Make Your Own kit something to play before they’ve finished their collections.
These are the various elements of the “brain”. From earliest at the top, to most recent at the bottom. Exciting to see Adrian’s very first comp of our physical progress bar, which we developed because the Box took about 30 seconds to start up. Now it takes about 12 seconds!
And finally, we have about ten hardware versions we consider to be major milestones in the design. It’s not quite Dyson’s 5,000 iterations, but we aren’t as rich as him, so, there’s that. It’s still really satisfying to track the design evolution and how we’ve continually synthesised feedback and technical considerations.

We’ve parcelled all the iterations up into their own labelled boxes on the shelves instead of them being all over the place, which I find comforting.

Possibly the best bit is that Charlie’s also made an awesome 3D model of the table with all the bits and bobs on it!

Categories
audio design manufacturing myomb packaging shipping shop

New Year, New Box, New You!

“Radically better”

As we move into 2020 we want to take a moment to talk about the latest version of the Box, version 1.3. We’ve dedicated much of the last year to developing it, and we LOVE it!

Our new v1.3 Box design
Behold version 1.3! Think it doesn’t look much different? Think again and look under the hood…

At the beginning of 2019 we sent 40 boxes around the world in our pilot. Following the feedback from that, and coupled with a wish list we had already built up, we identified a number of ways we could improve the Box.

At the same time we set ourselves the ambitious goal to build 1000 boxes by the end of the year. Building large numbers of the previous design wasn’t ever going to be practical, it was made up of a tangle of wires that we had to hand-wire ourselves and it relied on a variety of components ordered online from a multitude of suppliers. The Boxes were also subject to the occasional injury when transported around the world, so it’s suffice to say we had our work cut out!

Some of the ways we sought to improve the design included:

  • Better audio – louder and clearer!
  • Faster assembly time
  • Fewer parts
  • More durable design
  • Logging boops offline

And so we started work in the spring; Adrian worked on designing the PCB as a neat home for all the components that were previously crammed into the box, George developed the awesome instructional graphics on the board and worked on software improvements, and Charlie designed a new acrylic ‘skull’ and mapped out the positions for the electronics and how they would be mounted inside the Box. So here it is…

The new PCB…

We LOVE the new PCB and it has a few important features worth talking about. Importantly there’s no wires. Previous Boxes included a large micro-USB extension cable, aux jack, and loads of wires which got in the way. Now the jacks are tiny components that sit at the back of the board and are devoid of the tangled wires that criss crossed older versions. This means we no longer have to hand solder anything (Yay!) and the boxes will be far more durable, reliable, consistent.

The ‘Brain’ of the Box is now a neat stack of three separate boards: A Raspberry Pi 3A+ sits at the bottom, then there’s our main custom board and progress LED board (affectionately known as ‘Blinky Lights’) which slots in a right-angle socket; and finally we have a stacking header and plastic standoffs which raises the reader high above the main PCB just underneath the surface of the box. Primed and ready for Booping!

Our beautiful board (note the handy prompts to help you understand what’s what!)

There’s now a REAL-TIME CLOCK (RTC) too. Previously if a Box wasn’t on WiFi we had no way of logging when a Boop had happened because the Pi doesn’t keep track of time when it’s not online. So this new RTC allows us to timestamp a Boop and log it next time the Box is connected to a WiFi network.

Testing the board and speakers for the first time

Then there’s the DIGITAL-TO-ANALOG CONVERTER (D.A.C.). As the board says the D.A.C. ‘converts digital audio into analog sound for the amp’. This along with our super swanky and loud speakers make for waaaay better audio, that is free of static and incredibly clear. This alone makes the experience of using a Museum in a Box, particularly in noisy environments, so much better.

1000 Speakers!
1000 custom made speakers!

The new speakers not only pack a punch but also weigh a lot less which in turn makes them far easier to mount. V1.3 is almost half the weight of previous versions which will reduce both the cost of postage and it’s environmental impact when shipped around the world.

The new Skull…

A side by side comparison of the Museum in a Box design changes from 2018 to 2019
A comparison of the Box design evolution from 2018 to 2019

With our new PCB came the challenge of mounting it inside the ‘Skull’. Past versions required us to fix bits to the sides, top, and base with an opening on the underside. This was fastened by screws in the feet and some t-nuts that were an incredible pain to mount and often came loose!

The advice we kept receiving when talking enclosures was to injection mould it. The main benefits of that being a moulded enclosure is ‘preassembled’ and ready to put the electronics straight in. It’s also very scalable and would allow us to integrate snap fittings into the design for mounting components inside.

To explore this we did a lot of research into moulding and a bunch of work CADing and prototyping different enclosures. We also took a team trip to visit Protolabs in Telford and learned a great deal from the brilliant people there and received an exciting factory tour of their setup. We attained quotes but ultimately decided not to go with injection moulding for two reasons:

1. The upfront tooling cost is very high and hard to justify for the small batches we planned to initially produce.

2. The overall aesthetic of the Box has become part our identity. The ability for us to easily modify the design, and teach others to build the Box (such as our amazing Verizon volunteers!) feels much more appropriate for our scale and values.

So, having decided to stick with our laser cut look we needed to find a neat way to mount the PCB inside the Skull. The solution was to switch from a bottom opening to a front loading Box. We created a neat groove on the back panel for the PCB to slide into and sit neatly in the middle of the box, lining up with openings at the back for the micro-USB and aux jacks. The Box can now be opened, the PCB removed, and replaced in mere moments!

Get in the groove! The ledge the PCB slots and rests into, lining up with the aux & power jacks on the skull.

The extra front and back panels are held in place and made removable by using some neat snap rivets which can be removed from the outside. We used these rivets for speaker mounting too where before we’d faffed about with tiny nuts and bolts and a laser-cut stand.

Blinky Lights – We use these to indicate that the Box is ‘warming up’ and ‘ready to go!’

Other new features include a new progress LED board which is slicker and uses some recycled acrylic offcuts for the shims that we sent to the PCB manufacturers European Circuits. We spent a long time looking for the perfect light pipes to use with surface mount LEDs but ultimately decided to stick with through hole LEDs and our big green green LED. Why? Because they look bright and amazing!

New Packaging!

A new Box deserves new packaging to go with it. We revisited a previous design using a more compact container and an insert that conceals the power plug and various admin and try me cards so all you see when unboxing is your shiny new Box!

Finally there’s the latest version of the software. We’ll talk about this in more depth another day but we’re chuffed that the Box now boots up waaay quicker than it used to and includes more audio guidance when working through steps like WiFi and updates.

The new assembly time…

With our new design manufactured we decided to assemble the first 20 Boxes. We were blown away to discover that assembly now takes ~7.5 minutes per Box – a 2000% increase from the old design!

George and Charlie building 20 boxes in 2.5 hours!

In future this saving will enable us to fulfil orders quicker than ever before. The Box was intentionally designed for disassembly and as a result we proudly no longer use glue during the assembly process. The Box will now be much easier for people to disassemble and recycle at the end-of-life and we will share a breakdown of the parts and materials inside the Box in due course to make safe and appropriate disposal even easier.

And so with our shiny new Box design came our first test…

First boot up of v1.3… we figured out the Zeus print, eventually!

So there you have it, our new Box and the culmination of over nine months hard work. I hope that proves an interesting insight into some of the design decisions we made in developing v1.3. We love it and we hope you do too!

Our shop is now online so you can buy your very own v1.3 Box with a Make Your Own kit now! Kits are available in Individual, Educator, Small Org and Large Org options and colours include CMYK, Transparent, and Plywood.

Box colours range: Cyan, Yellow, Transparent, Plywood, Magenta, Key
Box colours include: Cyan, Yellow, Transparent, Plywood, Magenta, and Black

Have a wonderful New Year from all at Museum in a Box.

📦🎁🎅🎄🧦🎉🛠️🏺🏛️🔌💡🔉🌰