Guest post: Ben Templeton from Thoughtden

Ben Templeton

Ben Templeton is the co-founder and Creative Director of Thought Den, an award-winning creative studio from Bristol. Ben leads web, mobile and installation projects for organisations such as Tate, Science Museum, National Museums Scotland and the BBC.

Ben worked with Caper to plan and facilitate The Great Map Prototyping Lab at the National Maritime Museum. Here’s his thoughts on his experience of three remarkable days with 15 of Britain’s brightest technical and cultural thinkers.

The Lab HQ is a long room with two grand book cases at either end, remnants of its former life as a wood-paneled library. High windows run the length, looking out over the immaculate lawn of Queen’s House on one side and the Great Map on the other. Participants press their noses to the glass, like the 10 year olds we are designing for, looking out over the Great Map for inspiration.
Green Ship

Day One was idea generation, Day Two idea refinement with Day Three focused on presenting solid ideas to museum staff. It’s rare for hacks and labs like this to have such a clear content and audience focus so the first day required some rapid acclimatisation. 12 museum experts spent 2 hours with participants; Visitor Advisors explained the challenges they face while curators discussed the curiosities hidden deep in the archives.

Having boldly thrown open their doors to a new way of working, the museum couldn’t completely escape the hoop-jumping you’d expect in an organisation of this size. For security reasons groups had to line up to be escorted to the Map and back again, armed with feedback from families who were invited to critique the ideas as they evolved.

Kids on map

Audience needs played an important role in distinguishing the groups’ responses. Where some focused on specific technical solutions to help young people uncover hidden mermaids and treasure, others took a more holistic approach to the space as a whole and how to signal digital activities. Basing ideas around Raspberry Pis, Arduinos, Kinect and cardboard 3D models, it was a lively lab that signalled the next phase for The Great Map.

Great Map lab group

Any comparisons with Tate’s Turbine Hall are made in hushed tones but The Great Map space is fast becoming the a focus for visits to the museum for families. Lab participants threw themselves with gusto at this opportunity to imagine the future of such a key space for visitors – how to manage babies, boats and 12,000 RFID tags.


Lawrence Chiles, Head of Design and Digital at the National Maritime Museum, was keen the Lab would be used as an example of new ways of working in the museum and Caper are thrilled to be working with an organisation already known for moving quickly when it comes to digital innovation. The Lab was designed to go as wide as possible in a short space of time and, while it’s always a challenge generating concrete ideas in such a short space of time, the real hard work starts now.

Ships, stars, maps, navigation, pirates, explorers…


In April, we’re running a 3 day technology ideas lab at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, to look at applications for the next phase of The Great Map.

The Great Map is many things: as a social and civic space, a learning and creative space and somewhere to play and run around.

We’ll be taking advantage of the Easter holidays, carrying out some live user testing with our target audience – families – whilst working on the prototypes.

We’re learning about stories and objects from museum: real life pirate maps, paintings by J.M.W Turner and Nelson’s jacket; there are a lot of intriguing artifacts from which we can take inspiration from, and building on all the work and learning that has gone into The Great Map to date.

We’re also tapping into the many knowledgeable people at the museum – curators, learning teams,  front of house staff, interpretation, etc – with whom we’ll be having conversations in order to shape the outcomes.

We’ve recruited a team of inspiring creatives and technologists to take part in the lab : internet of things expert Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino, illustrator Abi Hiskey, artist and technologist Ben Eaton from Invisible Flock, software and hardware developer Gareth Foote, map illustrator Gareth Wood, creative technologist Henry Cooke, graphic and interaction designer Helen Maier, interaction designer Joel Gethin Lewis of Hellicar&Lewis, wearable tech and electronics expert Katrin Baumgarten, UX and interaction designer Pollie Barden, creative technologist and curator Melissa Coleman, ex-Tate Kids editor and now Hopster director Sharna Jackson, Raspberry Pi artist-in-residence Rachel Rayns, creative technologist Tom Armitage and Viviane Schwarz, maker of interactive children’s books.

Culture Hack East developments

Since the start of 2013 we have been developing a strategic plan for Culture Hack East, in partnership with CoDE and Creative Front at Anglia Ruskin University, as part of our ongoing development of Culture Hack nationally.  We have been working with the arts, creative and technology industries in the East region to explore and define the strategic development of the programme for 2013 and 2014, with support from the Arts CounciLTMitchell_130226_9253As well as strategic development, we have produced a Toolkit (available online later in April) to share our methodology and learnings so far from Culture Hack.  This free resource includes information on the process and ethos of the Culture Hack programme, as well as resources, such as signposting to funding opportunities, and real lift case studies including Hoipolloi and the London Review of Books.  The toolkit includes information on what motivates people to take part and how participating in a Culture Hack event can support legacy projects and long-term organisational change.

Back in February we ran a Culture Hack East Ideas Lab with our regional partners at Anglia Ruskin University.  The aim of the lab was to bring together cultural organisations, technologists, designers and developers to experiment with rapid ideas generation. We had over thirty attendees including The Junction, Wysing Arts Centre, ADeC, CRASSH, Hoipolloi, Cambridgeshire County Council, Tribal Labs and Stride Design.TMitchell_130227_9482Over two days, they created user journeys, developed paper prototypes and pitched ideas. Our panel – made up of Georgia Ward (Arts Council England), Zoe Svendsen (Metis Arts), Rachel Drury (Arts Policy Researcher in Residence, University of Cambridge), and Daniel Jones (Erase) – selected two prototypes to receive development bursaries, taking the ideas beyond paper prototypes to digital prototype stage.

Developed by Specialmoves, Parrabbola, DanceDigital and firstsite, Art Buddies is about creating opportunities for audiences to take risks, facilitating group attendance to artistic exhibitions or performances. They could be novices who have an interest in the art form, or knowledgeable enthusiasts keen to share. The Art Buddies team have tested an early stage prototype with target user groups, and through this they have refined what a successful and engaging experience would look like.TMitchell_130227_9353University of Cambridge’s Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology’s Cambridge Cabinet contains nearly 160 artifacts found in the Cambridge area that originate from the Medieval, Roman and Prehistoric periods. Developed by the museum with Atlas Live, the Wall of Cambridge Archaeology iPad App presents the visitor with a representation of the cabinet, maps of the Cambridge area, and the objects themselves. MAA is keen to develop the prototype to a second phase period, involving user testing in the gallery.  Off the back of this initial prototype the group have located additional funding to enable this future development.User-3As soon as the prototypes are available to the public we will share the links with you!

Photos: Tim Mitchell