Every Box needs a collection. That’s the set of objects you can boop on the Box to hear its story. From Poseidon to an ancient Egyptian comb to a squirrel and beyond, a collection is really only constrained by your imagination!

There are well over 100 collections living on the “Heart” web platform, and not all of them made by us!

This is a Feb 2020 screenshot of the Collections page on Heart, listing all Collections in the system.

Collections we’ve developed at HQ for ourselves and our clients:

What’s that in old money?
The Royal Mint Museum

September 2020-January 2021 / Commission

The “What’s that in old money?” collection

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the decimalisation of currency, the Royal Mint Museum commissioned a collection and a flock of 45 boxes to be lent to care homes across the UK free of charge. The collection tells the story of Linda, a young Mum who lived in Llantrisant before, during, and after decimal currency was launched in February 1917.

The production team: Rob Sherman, Bethan Clark, Ceri Ann Gregory, and George Oates. Takako Copeland made the beautiful custom boxes.

Each collection and Museum in a Box device and its power cord is delivered in one of these gorgeous purple custom boxes made by Takako. What a beauty!

COVID-19 Oral Histories
Museum in a Box HQ

March-April 2020 / Speculative project

We were hoping to put together a way for people to share their oral histories of experiencing COVID-19 before we realised there are a bunch of other far more qualified folks doing exactly that.

History of Women in Flight
Barton Primary School + Museum in a Box HQ

December 2019 / User research project


We worked with primary teacher Mandy Robinson and her class in Cambridge to create a collection about the History of Women in Flight. The children wrote and performed their own stories, and Charlie was our sound engineer for the day. We learned a lot about what it might be like for teachers of Key Stage 1 students to put together a collection. Overall the kids had lots of fun, and it was exciting to see their faces when we returned to the classroom with the finished collection.

Thanks, Mandy and kids!

Brent London Borough of Culture 2020
Museum in a Box HQ

November 2019 / Prototype

We’re hoping to recruit up to five teachers (either Key Stage 2 or 3) to work with us in 2020 to develop our Educator offerings, and we made this quick prototype to provide a Brent-specific prototype at an event put on by A New Direction at The Yellow community centre in Wembley.

These are the collection images: Zadie Smith, the accordion shop owner, and Sus Band.

I connected jan postma’s portrait of Zadie Smith with her brilliant 2011 speech on Libraries.

If you’re a teacher, and in Brent (or elsewhere in London, actually), and you’d like to be involved in our user research around Educator resources, do please get in touch!

About the Museums of Tees Valley
Tees Valley Museums

October 2019-March 2020 / Commission

The consortium of five museum services, managing seven lively and engaging museums and galleries across the Tees Valley is developing representative collections from all sites to showcase what’s on offer. More on this soon!

The Tower of London for Locals
Historic Royal Palaces

October 2019 / Commission

We produced a “first edition” collection working with the Community team at the Tower of London. It’s designed to show the local London community who may never have visited this famous London landmark what they might expect from a visit.

There is a fun mix of postcards, replica objects like clay pipes and coins, and another beautiful container box made by Takako. And, plenty of red velvet for extra royal fanciness.

Jatinder Kailey's tweet about the Box
“Absolutely love it!”

042 – Secret!


The Home Front & Moving Connections
The Scout Association

August 2019 / Commission

We made two collections with Scouts, about how scouts were helpful on the Home Front, and in Europe during World War II. We created 3D prints of an Air Raid Precaution helmet and the cover of a Log Book made in a concentration camp in Changi.

The Home Front, and Moving Connections
An example postcard from the Moving Connections collection

Annie’s Box
Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology

August 2019 / Commission

As Amara Thornton, Research Officer at the Ure, says, “How do we know about what happened in the past?  Archaeologists and historians use bits and pieces of information – whatever they can find – to create a narrative. Annie Ure was the Museum’s first curator, and she helped assemble the Ure Museum as we know it today. But there was more to Annie than being a curator.  Use objects and archive to piece together Annie’s story.”

In our first “biographical collection”, you can see photographs and two 3D printed objects that reveal snapshots of Annie Ure’s life. From her schooling to her family to her expeditions around the Mediterranean, this collection reveals the woman behind the archaeology.

The museum plans to use this with school visits to the museum, and to share with prospective students to give people a glimpse of this famous and productive curator and archaeologist.

Also, our Maker of Special Things, Takako, also made a beautiful custom box to house the collection.

Antique marbled paper lines the special box made to house the collection

The Creative Courtroom
National Justice Museum

June 2019 / Commission

The National Justice Museum in Nottingham, UK, commissioned us to create a set of cards illustrating six core courtroom roles: judge, barrister, court usher, court clerk, juror, and defendant, bringing each of these roles to life to help supplement their existing outreach & education program. The collection is aimed at Key Stage 2 students, and designed to teach what happens in a classroom.

We worked with writer, Rob Sherman, and actors Becky Wright and Timothy Allsopp to bring these characters to life, and the wonderful courtroom characters were illustrated by Seb Antoniou.

Magical Objects
Museum in a Box HQ

Ongoing / Museum in a Box commission 

This is the first of our planned Collections that Museum in a Box itself commissions. We are assembling a crack team of creatives. We have a funding proposal ready to send to potential funders, and seek a museum partner to collaborate with on object selection and story development.

If you are a museum that holds magical or mysterious objects in your Collection and would like to be our partner, please get in touch!

Living with History Memory Boxes
Monroe County History Center

February-May 2019 / Commission

We are developing 4 “Memory Boxes” (with the Museum in a Box inside) around themes or topics to prompt memories, conversation, and connection between people living with dementia and their care partners.

There’s a combination of original physical objects from the collection, retro photography from open cultural collections like the US National Archives and the Library of Congress, and audio that combines prompts for conversation with rich, evocative sound effects, and those questions are repeated in large text on the back of the card along with a prompt to find the original object. Here’s an example postcard:

In early testing, Susan, Director of the Center, sent us some incredible feedback:

“Cindy, in pink, who usually doesn’t interact much at all, spoke more than anyone has ever heard her talk.”

And now we’re pleased that Monroe has transformed into a Make Your Own customer!

Life & Times of Bata Factory Workers in East Tilbury
Bata Heritage Centre

February-May 2019 / Commission

The Bata Shoe Factory was established in East Tilbury, England, in the 1930s. We worked with the Bata Heritage Centre volunteers to create two Collections: Work & Community, recreating what it was like for the people who lived and worked there. The Box will be used at local heritage events and in schools by the Centre’s volunteers, many of whom lived in East Tilbury and had family at the factory.

We also brought in content producer Florence Evans, writer Samuel Bailey, and actors Jessica Carroll and Jamie Hinde to lend their considerable talents to the story.

This Bata shoe, the Wayfinder, had animal tracks on the bottom and a compass in the toe!

We also worked with Maker of Special Things, Takako Copeland, who made this beautiful custom box to hold the Collection objects.

Amagugu Ethu (Our Treasures)
KwaZulu-Natal Object Encounters & Narratives

Iziko MuseumsUniversity of Leicester Museum Studies, King’s College London

March-July 2019 / Commission

Schoolgirls exploring the Amagugu Ethu collection in KwaZulu-Natal

Decolonisation remains a major challenge for museums worldwide. Centuries of European colonialism means many historically marginalised communities are still disconnected, both physically and culturally, from material culture appropriated from them and then dispersed to museums far away in the metropolitan centres.”

This was the premise for our three day workshop in Cape Town in April. Gathering together Zulu community experts with Iziko Museum staff, storytellers and researchers, with the aim to facilitate lasting, animated connections between descendant Zulu communities and Zulu collections held by museums in both Canada and Cape Town, South Africa.

Transatlantic Slavery & Its Contemporary Significance
International Slavery Museum

February-March 2019 / Commission

Working with their Youth Ambassadors, the International Slavery Museum commissioned us to create a Collection of 3D models and postcards describing some of the important objects in their gallery space. Ten individual contributors made ten great stories about objects that would have been touched by African slaves, and several contemporary artworks about slavery held at the museum.

3D model of a bust of Olaudah Equiano

UK Muslim Portraits 
Everyday Muslim Heritage and Archive Initiative

February 2019 / Commission

Everyday Muslim is a long-term project to create a central archive of Muslim lives, arts, education and cultures from across the UK. Sadiya was one our Make Your Own pilots, and she purchased an additional Box to make her own Collection of portraits with oral histories.

Hiragana – Illustrated Japanese Phonics 
Takako Copeland

August 2018 / Prototype

Takako is an illustrator and printmaker based in London. She designed a poster of the Japanese Hiragana set for her daughter, and we’re making them into a set of cards that can speak the letters for you, as part of the Make Your Own Museum in a Box pilot.

Barnsley Museums Outreach Collection
Barnsley Museums

Jul-Nov 2018 / Commission

We’ve created six collections for the Barnsley Museums up in Yorkshire, about life in a colliery, art and design, the science behind coal mining, and working life at Cannon Hall.

Barnsley Museums team with their fabulous anemometers!

It was great fun to learn about anemometers, deep dark mines, frazzled squirrels, and veiled ladies! We’re looking forward to seeing what material Ally Beckett and her Learning team develop around the collections, and how they’re used up North.

We worked with writer Tash Hodgson, actors Hayley Cartwright, Richard Hand, Drew Carter-Cain, Wendy Patterson, Ross Grant, and Julie-Anne Dean, and Judith & Chris at the Voiceover Gallery.

The Museums group is also now lending their Boxes and Collections, generating income doing it. We love this outcome!

Tomb in a Box
University of Melbourne

July 2018 / Commission

Two PhD researchers have created a fantastic Tomb in a Box to be taken from Melbourne into rural Victoria to help their research on object-based learning techniques and impact.

Since the initial commission, Dr. Sharyn Volk have purchased another six Boxes to expand the program, and have been giving talks internationally about the initiative, and publishing their research on Object-Based Learning: Hands-on Humanities: Bringing the Ancient World to Regional Victorian Schools.

Demonstration box for the Cultural Orgs of Sweden
Swedish National Heritage Board

July 2018 / Commission

The Swedish National Heritage Board is Sweden’s central administrative agency in the area of cultural heritage. This commission was about creating a small demonstration collection and a Box for the board to take around Sweden to show their museums, libraries and archives, and hopefully convince them to make a Box of their own!

SEE RED Women’s Workshop Feminist Printmaking
Victoria and Albert Museum

May 2018 / Commission

We made a Box and postcard Collection to be housed at the Lansbury Micro Museum, alongside facsimiles of the brilliant posters made nearby by the SEE RED Women’s Workshop in the 70s. When the museum was closed, the V&A team took the Box and postcards out into local schools and a youth club, to ask local teens what they thought of the content, and whether things had changed since then. Their responses were recorded, and folded back into the exhibition experience, so visitors to the museum could either hear from the printmakers themselves about what it was like to make the work, or from the local teens about what’s changed.

© Victoria and Albert Museum
In-gallery installation of Museum in a Box

A Partnership: National Museum of Iraq & British Museum
The British Museum

April 2018 / Commission

The British Museum hosted four staff from the National Museum of Iraq, providing training around the full life cycle of digitising cultural materials. We were thrilled to produced a box to celebrate the project, and are even more thrilled to know that there is now a Museum in a Box in Baghdad!

© British Museum

026 & 024
History of STEM & The Asia-Pacific American Experience
Smithsonian Libraries

April 2018 / Commission

Our most ambitious commission to date, we’ve created 11 boxes and two collections to support the Smithsonian Institution Libraries UNSTACKED education programme. The boxes went to seven schools and two museums across the USA for two months. Students explored what it was like for migrants coming to the USA from Asia, and the history of science with a fun twist.

It was also brilliant to meet staff and kids at the schools we were lucky enough to visit in Washington DC. We learned a great deal by observing people using everything, and enjoyed making several usability adjustments upon our return to HQ. For example, the gigantic collections we made (40 things each) was far too big to consume in one sitting. So, we’ve found a sweet spot, we think, which is about nine things, with audio of about one minute. This has been a really useful benchmark ever since.

We had great fun working with writers Tom Bowtell, Louise To and Liz Laribee; voice actors, Becky Wright, Suni La, Hemi Yeroham; and Offset Audio to make our first professionally produced collections. We also used sounds and music from the brilliant Smithsonian Folkways collection to supplement the scripts.

Smithsonian Libraries remains our biggest client and most prolific collection creator, now that they’ve made the switch to the Make Your Own model. You can see the collections they create on their Heart page.

Climate Change in a Box
Jon Christensen

January 2018 / Commission

Haunted Objects
Museum in a Box HQ

August 2017 / Prototype

What if objects contain ghosts? Why are they in the objects? How did they come to be there? Why are they trapped?

For our prototypes on this so far, we’re  using imagery from the brilliant Met Museum to celebrate their commitment to open cultural content and the public domain.

Greek Gods & Goddesses
Museum in a Box HQ

August 2017 / Prototype

Lots of kids learn about gods and goddesses and love it! We want to make a collection to teach kids all about the Olympic gods, but also other collections to help teach them about all the gods around the world.

For our prototypes on this so far, we’re using imagery from the brilliant Rijksmuseum to celebrate their commitment to open cultural content.

How the Ear Works
Museum in a Box HQ

July 2017 / Prototype

This was a quick demo box we made for the Science Museum, using materials from their collection, and a puzzle Charlie made that helps you figure out the different parts of a human ear.

Phonics in a Box
Museum in a Box HQ

June 2017 / Prototype

Another internal prototype, we explored using a box to teach a young person learning to read about how to pronounce words using phonics. We’ll pick this up again at some point. It’s simple and works really well!

Points of Contact: Camden Art Collection
London Borough of Camden

May 2017 / Commission

The Arts & Tourism team at the London Borough of Camden received funding from Arts Council England to deploy a Museum in a Box as the primary vehicle to engage young people in the Camden Arts Collection. We made a box that contained eight works from the collection; a mixture of sculptural and two-dimensional works. The box travelled widely around Camden, and was part of 13 workshops across the borough, held at Swiss Cottage, Kentish Town, Queens Crescent and Kilburn Centre libraries, and the Great Ormond Street Hospital.

Once we’d gathered all the responses from kids around the borough, it culminated in an installation at the Points of Contact exhibition at Swiss Cottage Gallery.

We’ve written this box up in lots more detail on the blog, and here’s an interview with Caroline from Great Ormond Street Hospital on what it was like to use the Box there:

Hearing History Box
Jewish Museum London

April 2017 / Commission

The box was a mix of 3D prints and postcards

We were commissioned by the Jewish Museum London to make this box to remember Jewish people who served in war.  Working particularly with John Murray, Learning Programme Manager (Special Projects), we designed an original poppy to be printed, and constructed a 3D model of the AJEX memorial from the National Memorial Arboretum.

This was also our first opportunity to explore the effect of artistic treatment of 3D prints. After the lovely gypsum prints came out of ThinkSee3D in Oxford, we sent them to the brilliant artists at Pango Studios for painting. The memorial and poppies look beautiful (so we’d like to do that again!).

John said, “We couldn’t be happier with the results, and the MiaB team were fantastic throughout the making process. Their creative advice and practical expertise have been invaluable and the final product has exceeded our expectations.

Healing Through Archives
Abira Hussein / London Metropolitan Archives

March 2017 / Commission

This box was a collaboration with Abira Hussein from the London Metropolitan Archives, and we were also assisted by Jennifer Wexler at the British Museum. As part of the Object Journeys program at the British Museum, we helped Abira construct a box of 3D prints and photographs. Abira writes that the project is the start of something longer term, “using technology to work with community groups around themes of migration, memory and identity”.

Tom and Charlie attended the workshop. It was our first time working with oral histories like this, and we were thrilled when the women attending sang a song in response.

March 2017

At the suggestion of our advisor, Gill Wildman, we held a “Brain Raising” workshop at HQ. Helped by a visit from Adrian, our Liverpool-based tech lead, and other friends, we were able to make 6 boxes in two days.

Museum in a Box HQ

January 2017 / Prototype

Our first box for 2017 was investigating two things: 1) how we might be able to use the brilliant MOO NFC business cards in our boxes, and 2) how we might be able to encourage object-based learning and enquiry prompts in each box, to help people using the box and exploring the objects to question what they’re looking at. (More on our emerging educational strategy in this blog post.)

Baghdad 900AD
Museum in a Box HQ

November 2016 / Prototype

The Baghdad box was a training exercise for our junior designer, Charlie, to wrap his head around the components and workflow required to put a box together. He made the whole thing, from start to finish, including sourcing the various images, and writing and recording the scripts for each postcard in the box.

I See Wonder
Smithsonian Libraries

November 2016 / Commission

I See Wonder is an exciting education program developed by Sara Cardello, Education Specialist at the Smithsonian Institution Libraries. We made a demonstration box for her about the Astronomy Collection, and hand-delivered it for a board meeting in Washington DC. We took the opportunity to think through a little more about what sorts of information we could put on the back of the postcards, too.

The Planets
Museum in a Box HQ

October 2016 / Prototype

This was an R&D box exploring how the form of the box could reflect its content. We used the lovely Planets Suite by Gustav Holst (and available on the Internet Archive for reuse) as our content. Tom has written up more about this exercise in the News section.

Music Tech Fest
Museum in a Box HQ

July 2016 / Live Prototype

This was an R&D box around the question of archiving a live event through the medium of Museum in a Box. Tom attended the brilliant Music Tech Fest where he met with some young music makers and recorded their instruments and thoughts, which we’re putting in a box for easy playback.

Looking back, this was an early version of Make Your Own emerging…

Ancient Egypt: Daily Lives
The British Museum

July 2016 / Commission

We were commissioned by the British Museum to make a demonstration box that’s a blend of 3D and 2D objects about daily life in ancient Egypt. We’re finding that a demo box speaks volumes about potential, and it was great to be able to show the box to families at the museum.

We were happy to ask the young people who tried it what they thought of it all, and actually incorporated back into the demonstration box to share within the British Museum:

Frogs in a Box
Smithsonian Libraries

June 2016 / Commission

This is a box of postcards, also in a natural history vein. We’ve made a demo box that was sent across the Atlantic to help explain ourselves from afar. It’s called Frogs in a Box, and plays you the commentary of a herpetologist and the various frogs’ calls as you boop.

This box is part of a larger plan to do an exciting pilot with Smithsonian Institution Libraries and their visual literacy program called I See Wonder. We made it all the way to SxSW EDU!

Skulls R&D box
Museum in a Box HQ

May 2016 / Prototype

This box was aspirational, and hasn’t been completed. It was intended to demonstrate one of the great promises of Museum in a Box, that you will be able to bring collections together from collections all over the world.

This box had a natural history angle, and we tried gathering interested natural history museum folk from around the globe to contribute a model or two or three (with some success). We’re working with the cultural folk at Sketchfab, who are busy building a great collection of museum resources on their fast-growing platform.

Big Stuff from the British Museum, II
Museum in a Box Liverpool

May 2016 / Prototype

It’s becoming fairly clear that creating great content for the people using these boxes is going to be hard work (with high returns!). Our BSFTBM Mark II box was about going through the process of writing original scripts to accompany each object, and recording them in-house. A fun script that popped out was a first-person account from Hoa Hakananai’a of what it’s like to be old.

BBC’s Tweet of the Day
Museum in a Box HQ

April 2016 / Prototype

This Tweet of the Day prototype was developed to assist us about figuring out what’s required for us to quickly establish a partnership between content, printing, and use. It’s also our first attempt to set up a licensing arrangement with a big content provider which is helpful (but is going to be very difficult). Ultimately not successful yet, because licensing specific audio content from the Beeb is a complicated challenge. We’d like to go back to it though, because there’s so much potential! This collection is very popular and simple.

We were also considering what it would take to make a smaller Box on this project too, fantasising about an old skool Walkman form factor.

Big Stuff from the British Museum
Russell Davies

February 2016 / Commission

Our first commission! We were very happy to put together this collection for our friend, Anne. Anne doesn’t like small things, so we thought we’d go the other direction and choose the biggest things in public spaces at the British Museum. We experimented with scale in this box too. All the objects were printed at scale with each other, and included a scale object — in this case, a print of Anne herself, coming in at 160cm — so Anne was able to use herself to figure out how big everything else is, like the Amitābha Buddha, who’s about 578cm tall (depending on who you ask). We also put together a handwritten notebook to accompany the set, starting the journey of ‘what happens around the box’, and explore what kinds of contextual information we could include around each object, in this case, along a theme around how the objects made their way to London.

003, 004, 005
Statues of Women in London
Classy Gypsum Prints with ThinkSee3D
Postcards of Animals
Museum in a Box HQ

December 2015 / Prototype

To prepare for our first big public reveal at the Remix Conference, we developed our next three boxes. This round of prototypes were the first to include functional “brains” and a fleshed out V1 backend system. We built a V1 “boop log” which shows you any time an object gets booped; a feature we think could become pretty interesting as the community grows. It was really exciting to watch live reactions to the idea, and it gave us a great boost to keep developing the idea. This round was also about exploring the quality of 3D printing, and we were happy to work with the good folk at ThinkSee3D who made some fancy gypsum prints, special because there’s a heft to them that isn’t there with the normal plastic prints. It’s a shame they’re still really expensive!

Paper Prototypes
Museum in a Box HQ

November 2015 / Prototype

It took us a few months to return to the project, thanks to a busy 2015 working on other things. We incorporated the company in October, and then set about making some paper prototypes to explore our early interaction design ideas. It was here that we came up with the idea that the base of the object should look the same as the place where you “boop” it, or bring into contact with the reader that can recognise it. Let us raise a glass to our mate Daniel Pett too, for suggesting we use the same felt as you get on the bottom of chess pieces for our 3D prints. Fancy!

Somewhat Random Things from the British Museum
Museum in a Box HQ

March 2015 / Experiment

We made our very first box for a two-week residency at Somerset House in London. It was a set of readily available 3D models with a good geographic spread, and they happened to all be from the British Museum. During our residency, which was also beginning to explore an associated project called The Small Museum, we took an object from the collection and studied it for a day, resulting in an exhibition piece about it. You can read a lot more about this over at The Small Museum blog.