With over 4.5 million objects in its permanent collection, the V&A is the world’s largest museum of decorative arts and design. The museum covers 12.5 acres, has 145 galleries, a collection that spans 5,000 years of art across Europe, North America, Asia and North Africa and one of the largest collections of Islamic art in the Western world.
It's easy to explore the physical space, simply by wandering around. But this is not so easy in the digital space.
Although there's an overwhelming amount of objects, it's relatively easy to explore and discover items in the physical space, simply by wandering around, following signs or gravitating towards places where other people have clustered.
The same is not true of the digital space however— with such a huge archive to explore, where do you start? If you don't have a specific search term or topic in mind, how do you discover new items, the most uncommon, and the most unexpected?
The collection as a digital experience
As part of their digital transformation, the V&A has already digitised over 1.5M objects and continues to add more every day. Their online archive lets you search by object, but you need to know what you are looking for. Could there be a way to wander around the archive and introduce that element of surprise and discovery that browsing the physical space brings?
Building on this idea, along with product designer Gala Jover, I developed a design for a tab-based Chrome extension which would retrieve an object from the V&A collection at random and display a new item, each time you open a new tab.