The Hat Unit: Collaboration with the Natural History Museum of London.

[Brief: Live Brief. Design project 2019]

This project was a group collaboration with five other Designers, addressing a live Brief presented to us by the Natural History Museum of London. It was an opportunity to test Design skills within the context of an established institution.

The aim of this brief was to discover new ways of navigating the museums spaces, drawing out information and creating interest in areas of little public engament.

Our first interaction was walking around the museum discussing ways of drawing out information and how we could find new ways for people to interact with it. We became explorers, pushing buttons, pulling out rubbish, enquiring to staff and wearing plastic explorer hats.

We decided to make the project about collecting data and finding ways to create frameworks for understanding and highlighting underrepresented topics, in particular we choose female contributors.

We created objects to speculate about uncovered stories.

One example I personally created was Dirty Bugs, a side project that surfaced when I collected rubbish from the recycling bins in the museum and speculated about a possible future where micro plastic is mixed with insect DNA. This is a possible actual occurrence as scientists have discovered particles of micro plastic in mosquitos. That means that all the animals that consume them could be affected.

Another of the side projects that led to the development of this project was my investigation into Lucy Evelyn Cheesman, a British entomologist and explorer. Her most curious story is when she stayed with a tribe of cannibals.

I created my own version of the frying pan, imagining a scene where it was actually gifted to ‘ King George the V‘ and became part of the Crown Jewels.

The Information about female contributors to the museum’s collection was not readily available so in response we made our own version of the data portal, mapping the work and discoveries of female explores onto an online globe.

Progressing we identified specimens currently on display and we then created a series of workshops to either recreate the experience of the explorers or create speculated reconstructions of missing specimen data from the portal, that could then be fed back into our globe data map.

The workshops were presented together and called “Make, Draw, Excavate”

The following image shows how we began to create an identity for the project and experiment with explorative ways of advertising our workshop, using ourselves as human billboards.

We also created a tour to tell the stories behind the objects, following objects collected by female explorers that were actually currently on display. The aim was to use a conversational approach to disrupt the normal tour hierarchy. Furthermore, creating a woman-hacked-map. Perhaps the making of this map, the searching and collecting of the information could also be considered a tour in itself and could be applied to other spaces.

We then roped this project together through a series of printed items such as a manifesto, booklet and zine. The project became the Hat Unit, a homage to our humble beginnings of plastic explorer hats. We became a group whose methods could expand beyond the Natural History museum and be applied to other institutions and spaces.

For this project it was key to choose one topic and then thoroughly soak ourselves in it, emerging with key ideas to experiment with.

Future development:

I have taken one element of the project, the speculative sculptures, for a future development into an educational field.

In collaboration with teachers from Red Dragon English school and the highschool I.E.S. José María Pérez Pulido in the Canary Island La Palma, we hosted a workshop idea for 100 first year high school students in a mountain activity park, El Pilar.

The workshop combines the Hat Units workshops with a theatrical element creating scenes with the created sculptures, that the students can then write about in English. Through this extension of the project, I hope to allow a little creative chaos and maybe inspire creativity in their futures.

[Brief: Live Brief. Design project 2019]

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