Textiles & Gaming- Irish Museums Association (IMA) Textile Forum


Hi there. Hope things are well with  you! Hopefully you are not too stressed out with Christmas shopping. I have finished my Christmas shopping a week ago – talk about being organised!

Anyway on to the topic of the blog post. The above picture is a photo of the National Gallery of Ireland – Decorative Arts & History.  This museum is situated in Dublin, Republic of Ireland. What is the picture doing there you might ask? Well I was just about to get onto that topic now.

On October 18th, I presented my first paper (scary biscuits!) at the Irish Museum’s Association Textile Conference. I could not believe that I was selected to speak. To say I was nervous was an understatement!

My presentation was entitled ‘The Game of Fashion: Textiles and Gaming.’ The premise of my talk was how museums could use games and game mechanics to re-interpret their textile collections. After all, who doesn’t like to play a game? Even this vintage family are enjoying playing a good ‘old fashioned’ board game!


My paper explained how museum audiences’ perceptions and expectations of museums are ever changing. I discussed how ‘extra’ information about a dress or coat that may not appear on an exhibition label could be used in making a game for a museum. I also stressed the point that the ‘games’ could be low-tech pen and paper games or ‘heritage trails.’

I have summarized the examples for different type of games into bullet points:

  • QR Codes; Quick , easy to scan, holds a lot of information. Requires Wi-Fi and smart-phone. What alternative if Wi-Fi in museum is down? I used the ‘Pleasure Garden’ QR code game in the Museum of London as an example.
  • Player scans one QR code a virtual actor in 18th century dress appears on wall prompting player to find other QR code. Virtual ‘actor’ also asks player to find and locate different things about the costumes. People are interacting more with the objects.
  • Heritage Trails; Can be produced in house, doesn’t require internet connection, easy way for parents and kids to interact with museum/heritage site. Can be used to re-interpret ‘difficult’ or ‘unusual’ textile collections.
  • I used the V&A’ Museum of Childhood’s ‘Doll Trail’ as an example for a heritage trail. The trail asks children and parents to investigate the history of fashion through the dresses the dolls are wearing. This is an interesting way to re-interpret an ‘unusual’ textile collection.
  • “Living History” games; Require several volunteers, fun & interactive way of learning about textiles/history, brings stories to life. What if too many people attend? A volunteer is sick?
  • I used Stockport Museum Services ‘Air Raid Experience’ as an example. ‘Air Raid Experience,’ used games and textiles to let visitors encounter what a ‘real’ air raid experience would have been in WW2 (1939-1945.)
  • There was a display in the local museum of WW2 era Nurse’s and Air Raid Warden clothing. Many of the living history volunteers were wearing replicas of these uniforms. Essentially bringing history ‘to life.’

After discussing these examples, I moved onto a hypothetical game that I had constructed that could be used at any museum. The game centred around the mechanics of a ‘Heritage Trail.’ The game was based around how Lady Edith Londonderry re-invented Mount Stewart House in the 1920’s and 1930’s. If you know me  I am slightly obsessed with Lady Edith Londonderry- so the game is slightly fitting!This is Lady Edith:

Marchioness of Londonderry, President of War Services Legion

I devised the idea that there would be several living history volunteers stationed in the house and gardens. They would be in 1910 – 1940’s costume, some even dressed in replica’s of clothes Edith is known to have worn. In the house many of Edith’s own dresses could be displayed. The volunteers would be ‘Edith’ at various parts of her life. They would tell the story of Edith and the Londonderry family.

Accompanying the ‘game’ would be a trail for players to fill in. The ‘map’ would prompt players to ask the ‘Edith’s’ questions on her life and role at Mount Stewart. In turn the living history volunteer would point the player onto the next section. Once completed, the player could receive some small prize or be entered into a draw for a free visit or a meal at the tea shop.

The idea would be that people would be learning about Mount Stewart’s textile collection and the house’s history. They would be ‘interacting’ with the house yet having fun at the same time. Game mechanics can make people want to find out more  and discover more. Hence why games are perfect for textile collections and museums. Especially if there is a prize at the end of it!

I felt that my presentation and paper was greatly received by the audience. I think that my paper was very well researched and I worked hard to present a clear and concise argument. I envisage to actually produce and test the game at Mount Stewart at some stage. However, this may not be for a couple of years!

I did feel that my presentation was very ’21st Century’ as in very ‘modern’ in what I was discussing and presenting. I do feel that more museums on the island of Ireland need to embrace modernity.   I think using games. even simple ‘low-tech’ games, could be used brilliantly by museums to be more ‘modern.’  Afterall, anything that entices people in the door and increases revenue, is good right?

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the IMA for selecting me to present my paper. And my poor boyfriend who had to sit through revisions of the paper and presentation. Though I think he was more nervous on the day than I was!

P.S. Check out my full presentation below!

Click on the picture to see the full list of delegates:

Layout 1Pictures (c) Rachel Sayers 2013 unless stated/linked.


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