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UCL Public Engagement Blog



New Ways of Seeing: Printmaking as an Introduction to University Part 7

By Mohammed Rahman, on 22 July 2020

This post is the seventh in a series on the Printmaking Project, which is part of an outreach programme for secondary schools and colleges in east London. It focuses on the process of digitising the exhibition and is written by Shared Training an Employment Programme (STEP) trainee Mohammed Rahman.

Mohammed’s work has been facilitating printmaking outreaches and organising a final exhibition for the works produced.

Hi I’m Mohammed the Shared Training and Employment Programme (STEP) trainee at UCL Culture 2019-2020. In my last blog post I wrote generally about my role at UCL Culture and more specifically about curating the Make An Impression II exhibition, which showcases drypoint and chine-collé prints made by six east London schools and colleges during our Printmaking Project. This project was delivered in partnership with The Slade School of Fine Art. In this blog post I will write about my role in digitising the exhibition during lockdown.

Due to the Covid-19 outbreak, UCL buildings shut down in March and public programming was cancelled for the foreseeable future. As a result, our original plan to invite participating schools and colleges back to view the exhibition of their prints and participate in a crit run by Slade students and tutors was scrapped. So began the work of digitising Make An Impression II.


Artwork by Sir George Monoux Sixth Form College student, Make an Impression II Exhibition, 2020.

My first task was to research what UCL and other institutions were doing in terms of their digitised collections in order to write my own digital plan for a virtual Make An Impression II. I emailed many UCL departments to see what resources and approaches were being taken to provide remote access to collections. I also took inspiration from other cultural institutions, and was drawn specifically to the Tate’s Walk Through British Art with its navigation layout and display, and the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) Google Arts and Culture exhibitions, in particular the Sophie Taeuber-Arp exhibition with its informative slideshow views with striking images and clear text. I made a note of these features and began writing a plan for our own exhibition website.

I had already finished designing the real-life exhibition, including panels and text. I had to rethink accessibility and user experience before translating my existing vision into a digital format.

I also attended Creating an online museum with the Museum of Youth Culture, a webinar co-facilitated by Create Jobs and the Museum of Youth Culture. The session was run by Lisa Der Weduwe and Jamie Brett, co-founders of Museum of Youth Culture. This is an online museum documenting experience of youth subculture in the UK, which was originally an analogue photo archive called Youth Club. Lisa and Jamie spoke in depth about the challenges of digitising collections and their solutions to delivering an engaging online experience, which I found very relevant and helpful.

At the same time, I was in the process of recalling the prints via post and courier so I could scan and digitise them at home. Thankfully most prints were available- Emma Bryant, Schools Engagement Manager, had swooped in to the UCL building days before lockdown and posted a good portion of the prints to me. Another portion was with final year BA Slade student Mataio Austin Dean, who was tasked with cleaning them. Once this was done, the prints were delivered by courier.

One challenge was that some prints had been mailed right before lockdown and were stranded at UCL. Using photographs of the outreach workshop provided by the school and some Adobe Photoshop magic, I was able to digitally restore the missing prints, fit for the virtual display.

Drypoint print artwork by Kelmscott School student, Make An Impression II Exhibition, 2020

When the prints Emma and Mataio had sent arrived, I made high resolution scans of them with my home scanner. I then began the lengthy process of digitally cleaning and standardising the 86 prints exhibited. This involved many hours of Adobe Photoshop.

Once I had written up a digital plan, Emma and I liaised with Samantha Fanning, Head of Information Services Desk (ISD) and Communications and Marketing (CAM), as well as web developers Anne Coquin, Alex Talbot and Andrew Marriott. They were a joy to work with and helpfully advised Emma and me on what options were available in relation to the web design plan I had written up. As the website took shape, we discussed how to develop the layout and features such as feedback forms.

This experience has been incredibly valuable to me as I have had to rise to the challenge and learn new skills on the go. I have no previous experience in web design, so thinking about user experience and formatting images and text for a web site has been eye-opening. I had already developed many transferable skills throughout my placement, such as photo and text editing, liaising with others, and accessibility awareness, that I was able to draw on during this project.

Finally, I want to thank everybody who was involved in this project for all of their hard work and being such a pleasure to work with. I’m very satisfied with the end result and I hope this project continues well into the future!

You can visit the online Make An Impression II exhibition here  and please let us know what you think through the feedback box on the gallery pages.

Read the first , second, third, fourth,  fifth and sixth blogs in this series.

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