14 June 2023

Virtual environments or 3D objects printed directly into the classroom. These could be examples of digital solutions that could give more school pupils access to all the knowledge stored in museums. Linköping University and the Museum of Östergötland are starting a research collaboration to find new and better ways to utilise technology.

Group photo of Björn Lilieblad from Östergötlands museum, Bodil Axelsson from Linköping university och David Ludvigsson from Linköping university.
Björn Lilieblad from Östergötlands museum, Bodil Axelsson and David Ludvigsson from Linköping university. Magnus Johansson

“For me, it’s all about democracy,” says Björn Lilieblad, head of collections at the Museum of Östergötland.

He sits at the end of a long conference table with two researchers from Linköping University. David Ludvigsson, senior associate professor at the Department of Culture and Society, nods in agreement:

“Many schools are far away from museums. A specific example is the Swedish Mountain and Sami Museum. Digital access to these collections could be extremely interesting for those who live a long way from Jokkmokk.”

Digital projects with mixed results

The Swedish National Heritage Board has been given a government assignment to identify and promote collaboration between schools and museums. “The museums have also invested money in various digital projects, but it’s not always been a success,” says Björn Lilieblad from the Museum of Östergotland. “Some materials have been used, others the teachers have not even discovered.”

Photo of the entrance of Östergötlands museum. There are ballons outside of the entrance and it is sunny.The museum of Östergötland.
Photo credit Cissi Säfström
The Swedish National Heritage Board has now given the museum and the University of Linköping SEK 4.5 million to explore the opportunities - and challenges - provided by digital technology. A pre-study has already been done, with one aim being to find out what the teachers found lacking in the projects that have been carried out.
It turns out they have found a great deal lacking. For example, a clear link to the school curriculum. They also want materials that are easy to navigate, kept up to date and put into context.

3D objects and virtual worlds

The new research project will last three years. The goal is to develop methods to make museums better at producing useful and interesting material for schools in collaboration with teachers and museum educators. Professor Bodil Axelsson at the Department of Culture and Society is the research leader:

“I believe a lot in 3D objects, both those you can print and those that are only on screen, where you can turn the objects around and get close to them. The challenge is to take an educational approach using an object,” she says.

Digital development is moving at a rapid pace. In 30 years, we have gone from web pages to 3D objects and the ability to create entire virtual environments. Therefore, according to Bodil Axelsson, it is not possible to get stuck on individual media forms. Instead, teachers and museum educators need a kind of overall knowledge to be able to discover educational opportunities when something new comes along. The researchers in the project want to be able to propose basic methods for tackling digital technology.

Expectations for research collaboration

The Swedish Museum Act of 2017 states that museums are to participate in research. Bodil Axelsson has previously collaborated with the Swedish History Museum in Stockholm, which she found very rewarding. The hope is that collaborations will result in new questions and insights. The Museum of Östergötland has carried out a number of small-scale research projects in the past.

“For us, the collaboration is extremely important. It’s a dream project from the museum’s perspective,” says Björn Lilieblad.

Translation: Simon Phillips

For me, it’s all about democracy
Björn Lilieblad, The museum of Östergötland

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