Critical Kits and How We Use Them

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OK SPARKS! TIFFIN TIN Domestic Science

The OK Sparks! Tiffin Tin was produced to partly document, represent and distribute Domestic Science’s artist residency and research around the layers of history and multiple tenancies of Wray Castle in Cumbria, a Victorian folly and family home. Now owned by the National Trust previous tenants the Freshwater Biological Association (FBA) and The Royal Merchant Navy give the site a rich local history of science and communication – a history that has tended to be obscured by a prevailing tourism narrative based on Beatrix Potter’s brief summer residency in the area. The artist residency by Domestic Science and subsequent weekender events aimed to redress the balance and reveal this heritage by allowing people to explore the heritage of science and communication more thoroughly. The OK Sparks! Tiffin Tin kit was designed to be sold to the public at the OK Sparks! Wray Castle weekend programme in May 2016 as an alternative local science tourism National Trust shop product. We hoped sales would help balance funding with the ambition that visitors inspired by this local science heritage could continue to participate in it on a low level and distribute the artist’s approach. Tiffin tins are a sturdy stainless steel water proof container with 4 compartments famously used to distribute hot lunches in India. They were a convenient ready-made container to house petri-dishes, coasters and looped waterproof temperature sensors while being strong, waterproof and available off the shelf at restaurant trade shops. The tiffin tin layers each represent an area of research, an element of each artist’s practice and a companion to the artworks and events kit-ified.

Tiffin layers, associated themes and list of contents •  Tin 1 (Lid) – Overview for the visitor, funder and tourist * Laser cut acrylic coasters of bathymetric data of Lake Windermere and microscope slide of a fish scale •  Tin 2 – FBA Easter Class event (Hwa Young) * Freshwater testing pH meters kit * Petri-dish * Rare original photographs of freshwater diatoms •  Tin 3– Heritage through Games (Glenn) * The Wray Castle Board Game made of 20 tokens * 4 markers * 12 sided dice •  Tin 4 (Bottom) – Ok Sparks! Radio Day (Ross) * Cocklecraft-of-things36 * ESP8266/Arduino Internet Of Things (IoT) water temperature sensing kit * Essential documentation and background to the project with web-links to tutorials for the cocklecraft-of-things water sensing kit The OK Sparks! Tiffin Tin had ideas referenced from other educational science kits; keeping it partly self assembled, with extensive instructions and a set of activities with diverse levels of engagement without dumbing-down; you could use the coasters, play a game, test freshwater samples or setup a water sensing network. They feel like documentation that you could re-use and potentially participate in. However the large amount of development and design time that went into every element and component in the kit, meant that building kits for even small-scale commercial sales was beyond the scope of the project. Developing a kit even to explore the most simple subject in the most generic way takes a lot of design thinking; to attempt to make a kit that worked on many levels of context and heritage at a good price became difficult and any kind of sustainable profit margin became impossible. Negotiating a point of sale for the kit also became problematic – many of the electronic components where uncertifiable and it quickly became untenable for the kit to be a product we could sell in the gift shop. It became much more like tangible documentation of not just the events and the research, but the context of the project and an embodiment of the artists’ approach and practice. The presence of the tins at all the informal table-top events provoked conversations and as people opened them up and explored the contents this dialogue was given added tangibility and depth. 36