Students give archive film new life through digital innovation

A dynamic, new, visual interactive database designed by two students for a Kent museum has been put to the test by young and old in the Digital Media Hub at the University of Kent. Multimedia Technology and Design students, Anna Firmberger and Toby Wheeler, have designed an interactive video-based installation for the Powell-Cotton Museum in Birchington. The usability testing was one part of a final year project which has seen them working in collaboration with the staff at the museum, with anthropology PhD student, Catherine Moore, and supported by their lecturers, Ania Bobrowicz ( and Jane Milton (, from the School of Engineering and Digital Arts (EDA).
The museum installation consists of rare black and white archive film footage which Catherine Moore discovered while carrying out research at the Powell-Cotton Museum. She saw its potential for the museum but wanted to consider new ways of using ethnographic film in an exhibition that was not just a simple projection but allowed museum visitors to explore the film archive without having to watch lengthy ethnographic films. Catherine approached Ania and Jane at EDA following their successful final year student collaboration with the Turner Contemporary Gallery in Margate last year. Some months later, the visual database was being tested by a number of museum volunteers and children to check the design for its potential for education and outreach. The multimedia students and their lecturers were delighted with the feedback. Catherine felt the design had inspired visitors to see the film archive in new ways and, as a result of the students’ work, they were able to interact with the film via a touch screen. She added, “This long term potential is what gives it real value for the museum and at last creates a public face for its film archives that for so long has been hidden”. Meanwhile, the students are hopeful that this real ‘client’ experience will help them secure employment in an increasingly competitive jobs market. The Powell-Cotton Museum final year project is supported by a grant from the Ideas Factory (part of a Kent Innovation and Enterprise initiative) and the Heritage Lottery fund.
The School of Engineering and Digital Arts has an excellent reputation for both its teaching and research. Based in the Jennison Building on the Canterbury Campus, the School has 27 academic staff members, with both academic and industrial experience, as well as a number of specialist visiting lecturers. The School offers a range of both undergraduate and postgraduate courses in the area of Digital Media. The well established BSc in Multimedia Technology and Design gives students the opportunity to develop in-depth knowledge in areas such as web-design, interactive applications and e-commerce, as well as a broad grounding in filmmaking, 3D modelling, special effects and compositing. Our exciting new BA in Digital Arts, starting in September 2011, will provide students with practical skills, creative thinking and design expertise in the digital arts, opening up career opportunities in a range of areas within the creative industries.