Are you ready to Rock(heim)?

As a massive music fan and technology nerd, it would have been remiss of me not to visit the incredible spectacle of Rockheim, one of Trondheim’s two museums dedicated to music. Catering to the more popular side of music, and taking in humour, children’s music, hiphop, prog, black metal, pop, rap and more, Rockheim gives the visitor a comprehensive overview of Nowarys musical past and present in an arresting building, using incredible, innovative and inventive installations.

I smiled patiently as the helpful museum worker told me that Rockheim is a little more technological than most museums. I listened as he showed me the floor plan, with its little symbols denoting how visitors could interact with each area. What I expected was a museum with some interactivity, what I realised as I exited the lift on the 6th floor, was that interactivity isn’t just a bonus of Rockheim‘s installations, it is the lynchpin.

Six huge screens greet you after exiting the lift, they scroll periodically with Norwegian musicians, and it is your job to select who you want to listen to by standing in a designated circle. Motion sensors then react to your movement and breakdown the image of your chosen musician, shattering them, and when you move away from the circle, an excerpt of one of their songs is played. To stop it you stand on the circle again. It is a wonderfully interactive introduction to the museum, even if it does mean forcing other patrons to listen to your music choices.

Laser pointers play a big part in the experience of Rockheim. In the next section I used one to learn about how different developments in musical instruments and equipment have affected Norwegian music. By aiming the laser pointer at a sensor, visitors are able to cycle through various examples of the instrument. Half the fun is finding which sensor applies to your screen and ‘accidentally’ switching the content on someone else’s screen by ‘mistake’.

The 50s garage room, fully equipped with garage-like contents such as a convertible, tools and a picnic set, was punctuated with screens which acted like windows when they weren’t being used. If you looked through the ‘door’ of the garage, you could even see a woman baking a cake. This ‘screen as window’ idea is used throughout Rochkheim and is a really effective use of displays. Using screens this way integrates them into the exhibition rather than using them just as simply a means to display information.

The tour bus was another highlight, utilising recreated music newspapers on interactive screens and more screens-as-windows to display articles and videos. But don’t take my word for it, check out the promotional video:

The following video is one I took in my favourite room. Norway has a rich history of black metal bands, and this room was set up like one of their rehearsal rooms. There was beer bottles strewn all over the foor, and the entire room looked and felt like a dark, dingy log cabin in the middle of nowhere.

Rockheim is an incredible experience, it’s innovative, memorable and fun. A perfect example of integrating technology into an experience, suitable for adults and children, Norwegians and visitors alike. 5 stars.

Showtime in the Library!

It’s something that’s been said before but something that perhaps needs repeating in order for us to continue to be innovative in a variety of ways – innovation extends beyond embracing or employing technology.  I’ve been thinking a little about  the winning Eureka ideas put forward by Harriet Hill-Payne involving using a part of the library as an exhibition space for items from the library’s rich and varied special collections. This got me thinking about the arts within libraries in general and as a big music fan I thought what about using the library as a space for performance? This could include drama as well as music. I’m aware that  University of Manchester already has performance spaces around campus (as well as exhibition space, of course) but the idea of holding performances in the library could be seen as a way of bringing people into the library who may not otherwise be aware of what it offers them and increase its profile. Naturally the space used would need to be sound-proofed and/or not close to areas for silent study.

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Get it Loud in Libraries is an initiative launched initially by Lancaster Library and now active in many libraries throughout the North West which showcases music in public libraries with the intention of involving and engaging young people. It’s been hugely successful and is intending to spread further afield in the near future with backing from the PRS and Arts Council.

Within academic libraries there’s the possibility of lunchtime classical musical recitals or evening events that could involve popular music by student bands or higher profile acts.  These could even be linked with aspects of our collections. Having a performance space could enrich the Library artistically and culturally and would likely connect closely with many students. It could also be used for poetry readings and talks by authors which are more traditionally found in public libraries, though I can’t see any reason why not  in academic libraries.  There is an interesting and innovative programme of cultural/artistic activities going on in Harvard College Library  that could be an avenue other academic libraries may also wish to explore . As a University with a strong artistic heritage showcasing  some of examples this  through a programme of events within the library could potentially be an exciting new development.