New Trajectories in Curatorial Experience Design

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Pop-up installations, augmented realities, immersive theatres, curated destinations: the experience economy intersects with the work of heritage in multiple ways and to diverse ends. New Trajectories in Curatorial Experience Design explored the emergence and impact of such initiatives through in-depth collaborative research with project partners in the arts and cultural sector, including the National Trust, the V&A, Barker Langham and exhibition designers MET Studio and Nissen Richards.

The notion of ‘curatorial experience design’ points in two directions at once. In the first instance it aimed to capture significant shifts in heritage interpretation, from mixed reality environments to performance-led narrative experiences. In the second it highlighted the rapid uptake of co-curated and co-produced methods across the sector – participatory programmes that aim to broaden the ‘experience’ of curating to non-experts and disenfranchised groups.

How might these two trends contradict or reinforce each other as part of the emerging experience economy? To what extent is the curatorial a useful lens through which to understand these developments? In what ways might critical heritage scholarship engage productively with the processes and ideas of experiential and immersive design? This two-year project – funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) as part of their Early Career Leadership Fellows scheme – aimed to stimulate new thinking and new design approaches across the broad field of critical-creative heritage practice.