Designed as an online collection of objects that have changed people’s lives, and inspired by the notion explored in Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard’s film 20,000 Days on Earth that ordinary items can hold extraordinary personal significance, THE MUSEUM OF IMPORTANT SHIT will be the innovative digital home to a fascinating and eclectic assortment of ideas, memories and items of importance to people from all walks of life.
In addition, a wide range of special guests, including musician Nick Cave, actor Craig Roberts, actress and writer Alice Lowe, director Richard Ayoade, authors Joe Dunthorne and Jon Ronson, and broadcaster Edith Bowman will submit their own items and curate collections of objects from right across the museum.
Inspired by a moment during the filming of 20,000 Days on Earth and drawing on their experience in the digital sphere, Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard were supported by Film4 to work with the BAFTA-winning content agency Somethin’ Else and together they have created THE MUSEUM OF IMPORTANT SHIT (www.20000daysonearth.com) – an innovative online museum which will harness the power of user generated content to collect and showcase objects that have played a significant part in all sorts of people’s lives. Iain and Jane describe the moment the idea for the museum was formed:
“This whole thing started with an old piece of chewing gum. Seriously.
We were shooting the film and Nick told us this spine-tingling story. Nina Simone had been a nightmare backstage at one of her final gigs. But when she walked on and sat down, she took the gum from her mouth and stuck it on the piano, and… transformed. It’s one of those rare moments. Nick feels the gears of his heart change. It’s a feeling we’ve all experienced. A moment when your whole world changes.
Cut forward a few weeks, and we’re shooting another scene, this time sat in a kitchen on the edge of the world with Nick and his dear friend and bandmate Warren Ellis. They’re chatting and Nick asks Warren if he remembers the Nina Simone gig. Of course he does. “I have that gum” he says. And he really does. The next day he sends us a photo. It’s a pathetic looking dirty piece of gum, wrapped in a white towel. It’s shit, but it’s important shit. And that’s what this project is all about.”
Somethin’ Else has created an inherently socially-focussed multiplatform project using Twitter, the public will be invited to submit their own personal artefacts to the museum via Twitter. Users submit an image of the item and the story of why it is important to them, adding key tags to describe the object from the Museum’s own unique taxonomy. Browsing and discovery is also key to the project and users will be encouraged to browse items and collections via numerous routes and will stumble across all sorts of touching and unexpected stories as they go. Discussions about, and comments on, the items will develop across users’ Twitter feeds, introducing others to the Museum at the same time.
As with any museum, the element of curation is vital. In THE MUSEUM OF IMPORTANT SHIT Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard will act as Chief Curators of the museum. Themed collections will be created that link specific objects and people. Iain and Jane will also invite a number of special guests and creative icons to curate their own rooms in the museum.
Nick Cave says of the project, “I’ve been a great collector of stuff from the start, you know, as a child, with my marbles and bits of string in my pocket. To this day, I keep the writing and photographs and the random ephemera, thatover time, unexpectedly, collects meaning and significance. That stuff seems to be a kind of buttress that supports the soft tissue of my life. It feels connected to my soul in some kind of way. These physical things that define particular periods of my life, hold great importance to me. That stuff can unexpectedly reduce you to tears, because unexpected memory has that capacity. We all do it, I suppose, collect stuff, we all have our totems and touchstones that anchor us to our past. Stupid shit, in a way, but important shit.”
These sentiments resonate right across the museum and it serves as an innovative reminder that the strongest memories and emotions often come from the most everyday of objects. THE MUSEUM OF IMPORTANT SHIT is a cultural and emotional archive for and by the people that will feature collections unlike any other in the world, harnessing the myriad exciting opportunities that digital platforms give us all to share our stories with each other.
THE MUSEUM OF IMPORTANT SHIT further builds on Film4’s innovation work including Screen award-winning A Field In England Masterclass, the BAFTA-nominated Dreams of Your Life, the My ’45 site developed to partner Ken Loach’s documentary, and the groundbreaking Frank digital storytelling project.
Executive Producer Anna Higgs of Film4 says “What’s wonderful about this project is that the film and digital elements have developed completely holistically. The inspiration comes from Nick and from the film, but also from the wealth of digital experience that Iain and Jane have built over their careers, engaging fans and building new audiences. We can’t wait to see what a global audience contributes to the Museum.”