Kickstarter Comes to London's V&A Museum
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The Victoria & Albert Museum in London is a vast temple of design and the decorative arts, with a world-renowned collection of over 2.3 million objects. So when the museum asked us to help curate a selection of Kickstarter projects for their latest exhibit, we said… yes please.
The exhibit, which opens Saturday, is called The Future Starts Here, and it explores the power of design in shaping the world of tomorrow. Its curator, Dr. Rory Hyde, asked us to put together a list of projects that came to life on Kickstarter and were making an impact on the world, but that might not have found support through conventional means. From there, in conversation with Rory, we settled on four exemplary projects.
We’re so grateful that the V&A is recognizing the innovative work of our design and technology creators. Here are the projects that will be displayed in a Kickstarter-themed case at the exhibit:
In the wake of the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan, people scrambled to get accurate data on the radiation’s spread. A global team of volunteers stepped up to create Safecast, a Kickstarter-funded open platform for collecting and sharing this data. Safecast developed its own low-cost, open-source geiger counters to give to people near the contamination zone and to Kickstarter backers.
In 1977, NASA launched two Voyager spacecraft on a grand tour of the solar system and beyond. Mounted to both of these spacecraft was a golden phonograph record, an interstellar message to extraterrestrials, conceived by Carl Sagan and containing the story of Earth in sounds, images, and science. A Kickstarter project in 2016 made the record available to the public for the first time in a lovingly assembled edition. The project raised $1.4 million, and the resulting album package picked up a Grammy award.
The Cubetto robot from Primo Toys lets children as young as 3 learn the basics of computer coding without ever looking at a screen. Children arrange colorful blocks in sequence to issue commands to a smiling, rolling robot and guide it through a series of adventures. Cubetto’s creators offered a prototype version on Kickstarter to get feedback from educators and parents, then returned with a more polished version that raised $1.6 million in 2016.
The designer Kawther Al Saffar collaborated with craftspeople in Kuwait to create these one-of-a-kind bowls that fuse two different metals into beautifully unexpected combinations. The bowls are cast in molds made of sand from the nearby Nile River, an ancient method that also happens to be environmentally sound. Kawther saw this project as a way to elevate and promote techniques that are fading as Kuwait loses interest in its own craft traditions.
A screen in the Kickstarter case will show a project that is raising funds right now. Visitors will be able to scan a code with their phones to see and support that project on Kickstarter. Several projects will rotate through the display over the course of the exhibit’s run. The first is Elia Frames, a new tactile reading system for people with visual impairments that uses modern printing technology.
Outside of the Kickstarter case, the V&A's curators have chosen to include several other Kickstarter-funded ideas in the exhibit, which includes more than 100 objects:
Bento Lab by Bento Bioworks: Bento Lab is a portable DNA laboratory that makes it easy to take biological samples and conduct simple genetic analysis without the need for expensive software or specialist knowledge. It opens up genetics to everyone who wants to experiment with the code of life.
BRCK by Ushahidi: Developed in Nairobi, Kenya, BRCK is a rugged device that is designed to provide internet to communities with limited connectivity. It switches between different connection types as needed, and its eight-hour battery life keeps it going through power blackouts. BRCK has gone on to make tough tablets for classroom use and to set up public Wi-Fi networks.
Little Sun Charge by Olafur Eliasson and Frederik Ottesen: Harnessing energy from the sun, the Little Sun Charge can be used be used to power small devices like mobile phones and e-readers, while its lamp provides over 155 hours of light. It’s an art project, a consumer product, and also a social business — its creators have distributed the devices to off-the-grid areas of Sub-Saharan Africa through local partnerships.
The Future Starts Here runs through Nov. 4. We hope you get a chance to check it out!