We’d like to give you some guitars for Christmas.
Yes, it’s nearly Christmas and if you’re anything like us you’ll be panicking about presents. So here’s an unusual suggestion — a new app that let’s you choose exhibits from a museum and gift them to a friend or loved one as a personal tour. You visit a museum, think of someone you’d like to give a gift to, choose up to three objects they would like, take photos as clues and record personal messages to explain why you have chosen them. The app, simply called Gift, wraps all of this up into a package that you can then send to them as a link through WhatsApp, text, email or post on social media.
Your chosen recipient can open it up on the spot like a kind of postcard or perhaps better, can visit the museum in person to unwrap it there and listen to your messages as they stand in front of the exhibits. It’s an unusual personalised experience that shows someone that you have thought deeply about them, and you don’t even need to buy any gifts. What could be better?
Documentary of Blast Theory’s Gift app
So what has this got to do with guitars? Well, we thought we’d give it a spin and so we’ve made a gift especially for you. It’s a selection of three historic guitars, chosen from three famous guitar museums around the world. First we visited ‘Guitars a Museum’ in Umeå, Sweden, before nipping over the pond to the Songbirds Museum and the Willie Nelson and Friends Museum, both in Nashville. All three are homes to extensive collections of beautiful guitars that you could only dream of playing, let along owning.
‘Guitars’ the Museum in Umeå, Sweden
We’ve chosen three unusual guitars for you, one from each museum, but you’ll need to unwrap your gift by following this link to find out which ones and why. The tour should simply play back through your web browser. Just follow the instructions.
Inside the Songbirds Museum, Nashville
Of if you fancy having a go at making your own gift for someone else, you can access the app here on your phone or tablet. Why not send us a link to your guitar gift and we’ll post it on Carolan’s blog?
The Willie Nelson and Friends Museum, Nashville
Before you get too worried about the impact of our flying back and forth across the globe on the climate, we’ll let you into a secret. We actually only visited these museums virtually, dropping by their websites to ogle photographs of their valuable collections. Of course we may get to visit in person one day, or maybe you will so you can try out our gift? Or perhaps it’s best to keep it as just a fantasy postcard from us to you. Either way, we hope you’ll enjoy it and have a great time imagining the famous guitars your might meet.
As if you hadn’t also suspected, there’s a research story here too. This app has been developed by our friends Blast Theory and ourselves as part of a European research project called Gift that is exploring new ways of using interactive technologies in museums. It also builds on previous research from ex-Nottingham University PhD student Lesley Fosh (you can read about Lesley’s research here).
Like the Carolan guitar itself, these unusual gifts make connections between physical objects and digital stories. And while they don’t directly use a technology such as Carolan’s Artcodes to connect the two, they still effectively wrap physical things in digital media. Indeed, in this case, the app could be seen as a kind of digital wrapping service.
Blast Theory’s Gift app has already been successfully trialled at Brighton Museum and Art Gallery and at the Munch Museum in Oslo where we learned a great deal about what it feels like to both give and receive unusual gifts such as these. You can read about it in in this paper and we hope that it may appear in a museum near you soon
In the meantime, we hope that you enjoy our Christmas gift to you and that Santa (or is that Santana?) brings you the guitar you’ve always wanted. Or at the very least you find some hours over the festive period to play the guitar you already own and love.
Peace, love and guitars to all humankind.