Interactive sensory objects developed for and by people with learning disabilities

This project works with people with learning disabilities as co researchers, and researchers from Art, Systems Engineering and Multi Media Advocacy, making museum interpretation, through a series of sensory art and electronics workshops, in response to the Museum of English Rural Life, (MERL) Reading.

Department: Art

Supervised by: Dr Kate Allen

The Placement Project

You will be joining year two of a three year AHRC funded multidisciplinary research project working with the Art Dept and Systems Engineering from the University of Reading and researchers exploring Multimedia Advocacy from the Rix Centre at the University of East London. The first year of the project focused on Speke Hall a National Trust Estate in Liverpool. From April 2013 -2014 the project will be based at MERL Reading and this placement gives you the opportunity to develop ideas with the research team for workshops in response to the collection at MERL, to experiment with embedding electronics into objects, to participate in sensory workshops, document and record workshops on the project website. The project aims to create a series of multisensory interactive art works that respond to equivalent objects in museum collections, developed through art-based workshops by people with learning disabilities in collaboration with the an interdisciplinary research team. Can the experience of a collaborative creative process between artist, technologist and user group, working with interactive multisensory artworks, encourage people with learning disabilities to make sense of objects in museum collections and broaden their appreciation and understanding of heritage collections? What improvements to access and engagement with cultural heritage displays can be achieved for people with learning disabilities, through the use of multisensory object interfaces? Could these experiments influence the provision of multisensory objects and interactive technologies in museums and heritage sites for the general public? To find out more visit our website


You will be involved in all aspects of the MERL stage of the project, working with the multidisciplinary team, Particularly with PI Kate Allen and Nic Hollinworth the project post doctoral researcher you will be asked to contribute your ideas and experiments for interactive objects in response to the collection at MERL. The tasks will cover background research at MERL 10%, planning, idea development and preparation for hands on sensory workshops 30%, facilitating at practical workshops at MERL 10%, documenting, photographing and recording information30%; contributing to the website and to co-written papers 20%.

Skills, knowledge and experience required

We are looking for a confident, inventive art student who possibly has experience working with community groups. You need to be practical, flexible and be able to work with others while being able to initiate your own work. You need to be digitally literate for example able to add entries on to the project blog and keen to learn for example about electronics. An interest in sculpture, interactivity, participatory art or electronics would be an advantage.

Skills which will be developed during the placement

This project will allow you to interact with a multidisciplinary research team, to build on your experience and artwork through investigating the potential of embedding electronics in objects. You will develop your workshop planning skills; work in a team as well as independently, using your own initiative. You will gain valuable experience in all aspects of undertaking a research project from planning and facilitating workshops with the team to collaborating in the development of interactive objects. The project will provide you with valuable insights into employability skills and career prospects within the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, including developing participatory art workshops, working with people with learning disabilities, responding to a museum collection, and developing your skills of documentation, reflection, writing and recording information. You will be given an induction and guidance about working with groups of vulnerable people.

Place of Work

Art Dept, Systems Engineering and MERL Museum of English Rural Life Reading

Hours of Work

35 hours/week for six weeks; Part-Time equivalent one day a week over the Summer and Autumn term 2013

Approximate Start and End Dates (not fixed)

Saturday 01 June 2013 - Saturday 30 November 2013

How to Apply

Please apply by email to Kate Allen ( including a CV, up to five images of your artwork and covering letter.

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