exhibition in a box

exhibition in a box

exhibition in a box

Research Centre
Art and Design Research Centre


a theatre for conversation

Building on the ‘engagingaging’ project and series of associated exhibitions 'Exhibition in a box' is a transnational research platform that involves health academics, health practitioners and older people in the UK, Holland, Germany, Switzerland, Poland and Malta. Developing the notion of the exhibition as a research tool and inspired by Duchamp’s 'boîte en valise' the exhibition is distilled into a 'suitcase' and aims to compare the experiences of older people across Europe to inform design in supporting independence and quality of life in later life. Rather than the onus being placed on older people to physically access a traditional exhibition space, ‘exhibition in box’ seeks to bring the exhibition to the older person and to transform the home into a discursive research arena, providing individuals with a tangible prompt to scaffold conversation. Exhibition in a box provides a ready made tool and structure for health practitioners to creatively engage with older people. A set of principles have been developed, which position the participants as the ‘expert’ and encourage choice and decision-making.

Everyday objects, photographs and textual material comprise the ‘critical artefacts’ defined through the user-workshops undertaken in the engingaging project. These ‘exhibits’ (in the box) are prompts that enable engagement with users in a range of contextual environments, the components of which become part of the exhibition. Leaning heavily on Duchamp’s approach each ‘exhibition’ is unique through the evolving contribution from the participants. Twelve boxes were produced and distributed for use with health specialists in collaboration with older users across Europe. These provide a research tool and method for engagement with older people to help develop our understanding of designing for older people.

Exhibition in a box was employed by occupational therapists at the ZHAW who utilised it as a research tool to engage with the Indian community in Switzerland. An exhibition presenting the concept and its potential as a research tool for healthcare specialists was exhibited at the ZHAW Switzerland in December 2013.

Researchers involved

Professor Paul Chamberlain - Co-Director C3RI, Head of Art and Design Research Centre, Director of Lab4Living and Director of Design Futures
Dr Claire Craig - Co-Director, Lab4Living, Senior Lecturer Occupational Therapy

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