The Battle of Camperdown House

camperdown house with SPK

There’s a report in today’s Dundee Courier that the A-listed, neo-classical Camperdown House, centrepiece to Camperdown Park, Dundee is not going to be accessible to the public anytime soon.

I understand the problems that this must bring to Dundee City Council (DCC). So often cultural projects are criticised for being a waste of money in the face of other, more pressing issues. In this particular case DCC are saying Camperdown House is not as important as other things they have planned and therefore not a priority.

camperdown house dome

You can’t please all of the people all of the time. Sometimes you can’t please any…

However, I have a little insight into why people would want this building accessible. In October 2013 I was one of a small group who were granted access to the building as part of a collaboration between the McManus Youth Action Group (YAG) and SmallPetitKlein (SPK) contemporary dance who were interpreting our contribution to the National Museum of Scotland’s ‘Sense of Place‘ project.

View more Instagram images from the day here (you will need an Instagram account)

The purpose of the day was for YAG to work on a dance sequence with SPK that would be performed at the opening night of the McManus ‘Sense of Place’ exhibition. I can’t remember why Camperdown House was chosen other than us ‘arty’ folk like to be inspired. Given that it has been closed for so long there was definitely a ‘haunted house’ vibe which also contributed to another SPK production ‘Cut’ – see more below.

The ‘Sense of Place‘ session in Camperdown House went so well that, at the end of the day, I was able to direct a piece of film that captured the dance as well as becoming a template for another film shown in the exhibition.

So, if you would like to see inside of Camperdown House I hope that, to some degree, you can be satisfied by what follows. First you will see the camper down film, followed by the final version filmed out-and-about in Dundee. That film is then followed by scenes from our opening night at McManus where the dance was performed live, leading our audience through the museum – a stunning building in its own right.


SmallPetitKlein’s production, Cut

Dundee Courier Camperdown House article

Sense of Place – part three

electric theatre

I started using QR Codes in 2010 – firstly to see if I could add any value to advertising. I then became more interested in education and developing the ‘game’ element (of what were essentially digital treasure hunts) to engage children in learning activities.

Conveniently, in the middle of this diversion from advertising in education I was asked to create a trail for an eTouirsm PhD Summer School at the School of Computer Science at St Andrews University. One of the lecturers had been watching the NEoN Knights QR Game unfold on Twitter and got in touch.

QR page mini-banner

His brief was for my trail to achieve two things: 1) An example, on day one, of technology enabling tourism that would prompt discussion and encourage the students to design their own ‘products’ throughout the remainder of the week. 2) An ice breaker, an introduction for the students (most of whom would be travelling from across Scotland) to St Andrews and to each other.

The aim of the eTourism trail, from my perspective, was a combination of both advertising and education. For a city like St Andrews those tow things are inseparable because the majority of the tourism is heritage and history.

St Andrews Space Hop

It was also an opportunity to engage with a Twitter/Social Media active community of independent traders across St Andrews who would value the interaction with tourism in a technological way and boast about it through their online channels.

The combination of these three opportunities has prepared me with the experience to create at least two other trails (though their have been more) that both educate and entertain:


Dighty Water – A vital stretch of water in Dundee’s history; rich with stories that have been gathered and tagged to QR Codes that will be dotted along portions of the walkway that follows the water.

And now:


Sense of Place (SoP): The McManus, Dundee

The McManus has a fantastic permanent collection, curated under the title of The Making of Modern Dundee (MoMD). This collection is situated down stairs at The McManus includes remnants of the original Tay Bridge that collapsed in 1879, through to video games from the 1980s created in the city. Many of the objects in this collection inspired work created for Sense of Place. Without moving them, we wanted to acknowledge them as part of our exhibition. QR Codes were the simple solution.


Throughout the SoP exhibition programme visitors will find QR Codes alongside project descriptions. These codes deliver additional content and help visitors understand the connection to MoMD – you may even find a sample hide here…

However, should you wander into MoMD knowing nothing about SoP there are QR Codes on the display cases that point you to the relevant work in our exhibition.


For me, it is the richest combination of physical and digital artefacts that I have worked on and another accomplishment in the image of the model I established with my Masters ‘Mystery Boxes’ project during 2011.

As if this wasn’t enough, the content behind some of the QR Codes are pieces of work that could constitute an exhibition for themselves. Trips across the Tay Bridge replicating a journey made, captured and shared over 100 years ago. Besides that you can share in the tour of MoMD that we made as a group with Brian Cox and hear him recounting memories of growing up an living in 1950s Dundee.


The thread through all of this is a desire to preserve memories, stories and experiences. While this feels very new, because the technology is so ubiquitous in 2013, we learned that our capturing and sharing activity is no different, in practice, to that of 1897. More people have access to the tools but the majority of them are filming the mundane processes of daily life as the pioneering filmmakers of the late 19th Century had. Train journeys. People at work. Children at school.

So, I am very grateful to ‘Sense of Place’. As I’ve said before, working with the young people was rewarding/entertaining enough. But in addition to that, together we’ve worked on projects that we will talk about for the rest of our lives – Tay Bridge journey, SmallPetitKlein, Brian Cox, the BIG Print, and so on… Finally, the fact that we’ve had the opportunity to bring it all together for the exhibition is the icing on the cake. But not just any old icing. Elaborate, swirly, multicoloured icing with adornments of sweet decorations covering a beautifully hand-made cake. That’s what it’s like.

Go along. Have a look. Let me know what you think.

Thanks :)

Find out more about:

NEoN Knights (Digital Arts Festival) – St Andrews Space Hop (St Andrews Uni PhD Summer School) – Balmullo Primary School (Permanent Heritage Trail)

Sense of Place – part two

Last night was the ‘private view’ opening of the Sense of Place exhibition (see previous post) – what a great evening! I’ll have so much more to say about Sense Of Place (Nation Museum of Scotland lead project) (#YAGsop) but this is just my unloading piece… more will follow in days to come.

yagsop Hashtag

The young people involved had a great time with their families, showing off their work and enjoying the attention! SmallPetitKlein did an amazing interpretation (through dance) of our project; performed with the audience on the move throughout the museum, connecting the two gallery spaces of our exhibition.

The tech worked (which is always a bonus), people were scanning QR Codes with their ‘own’ phones (something I’ve been looking forward to since 2010 when I started using them…) and the Electric Theatre, oh, you have to see the Electric Theatre! 30 minutes of films created by the Youth Action Group, East Coast Rail, SmallPetitKlein and more

The exhibition guide, Navigation, arrived and looks great – also stuffed full of QR Codes and behind-the-scenes extras! And the show will evolve too with new content appearing from week to week behind the codes, in the book and the gallery.

YAGsop Navigation guide

So well done to all involved – so many of your individual projects have carried lesser exhibitions – that’s not hyperbole, that’s Sense of Place!

YAG group - instagram

Christine (Head of Learning and Engagement at the McManus), in her speech, said it was a privelidge working with the members of YAG. It really was.

Never before has so much work felt so far from work.
So my thanks go out to YAG :)


Sense of Place
Open from today through to 7 February 2014
The McManus: Dundee’s Museum and Art Gallery
Meadowside, Dundee

Sense of Place – part one

YAGsop - poster

Having worked on the Living Communities project in Perth I was keen to carve out a deeper ‘educational-digital-projects-that-are-not-dull’ kind of niche for myself. Working in Perth  Museum and Art Gallery was a great experience. I love museums. And engaging kids with content and spaces, that are both often perceived as ‘dull’, is a thrill.

So, 18 January, 2013 I approached The McManus | Dundee’s Art Gallery & Museum. One covering email and a link to my ‘services‘ PDF later and I’m the luckiest chap there is…

Because the National Gallery for Scotland had, only days before, invited McManus to collaborate on a group project (with three other museums across Scotland) called Scotland Creates: A Sense of Place. While McManus has plenty of talented artists they needed someone to deal with ‘digital’ stuff. Nice timing, eh?!

Almost 12 months later I’ve only made passing references to McManus and Sense of Place because we’ve been saving the best of what we’ve done for the exhibition. Of course as time goes on some of that gets relegated because even better work comes along and there simply isn’t room for all of it!

So, there will be a few gems that I will be able to share over the next few months as ‘DVD extras‘ to what we have in the exhibition… speaking of which…

The exhibition, Sense of Place, opens this week! Thursday 12 December is the private view and Friday 13 is the official opening. Here are the private view cards – we have four (of course) which split our Instagram’d poster image into four… (collect ’em al!)

YAGsop - Private View Invite

Sense of Place was constructed around the need to get more young people into museums. McManus already has a great track record of getting young people through its door because of YAG! The Youth Action Group (YAG) is simply a couple of hours on a Thursday evening, when the museum is closed to everyone else, and we get creative. YAG is 14+ and will start again in February. If you, or someone you know, is interested, drop me a line or contact McManus directly and ask for Keri.

I’ll say more about Sense of Place another time, for now it’s enough to say that there were train journeys and QR Codes and Hollywood actors and iPads and steam rollers and animation and Instagram and walking through walls and time travel and Tumblr and modern dance interpretation and… and… oh, and tea! Quite a lot of the time there was tea.

Scotland Creates: Sense of Place
The McManus | Dundee’s Art Gallery & Museum
Opens Friday 13 December, 10am

To throw your hat into the ring for a limited number of private view invitations, please leave a comment below. Quick!