Unknown to the vast majority of students is the wide collection of academic treasures that TU Delft owns. Hidden away in huge basements, hundreds of historical books, maps, and (technical) appliances are stored. A lot of untouched potential of knowledge for students. However, engaging students with all these covered objects seems to be challenging.

The two design assistants, Betsie Loeffen and Laura van der Linden from the faculty of Industrial Design and Engineering, worked on the Service Quick Dive project for the Academic Heritage team focussing on engaging students with the Academic Heritage of the TU Delft. During this project they dove into the experience and journey of students who are looking for a deeper understanding of the history and context behind a subject. In doing so, they tried to answer the following question:  How we might engage students with academic heritage?

The TU Delft heritage channels were explored, interviews were conducted, and the several heritage collections of the university were admired. During this exploration phase, they discovered the importance of interactive elements and the context when displaying academic heritage objects. With a lack of these components there is a risk of losing the interest of students. With this in mind, the design assistants developed the Exhibition Building Blocks. These are a set of guidelines and examples that support and inspire in shaping engaging exhibitions with the heritage collections of the TU Delft. 
The fundamentals of student engagement are covered in three categories: initiating interest, the context, and the interaction. Within each of these categories, there are several Building Blocks that represent a way to provide the fundamental. For instance, within the context category we have ‘Comparative Display’ and ‘Time Capsule’. These are methods to provide context for the heritage object. The goal of the Exhibition Building Blocks is to inspire the creators of exhibitions and challenge them to think out-of-the-box. By using the Building Blocks as pieces to compile elements of an exhibition, unique exhibition spaces can be created and the categories for student engagement will be addressed.


Translating the Building Blocks into a card deck

As the Exhibition Building Blocks will be used within teams and with external stakeholders in co-creation sessions, the idea emerged for a Building Blocks card set. With cards, we imagined, it will be easier to use the Building Blocks during brainstorm sessions in groups and enhance the creativity even more. Design assistant Laura van der Linden took on the challenge of creating them and developed the card set together with a facilitator manual. 

The card deck was tested in a pilot brainstorm session with the Academic Heritage team themselves. During this session, we started off with a print from a heritage book of the TU Delft Tresor. From here, we defined the goal for a potential exhibition. With this in mind, the brainstorm started and lots of ideas were generated. Once the creativity flow decreased, we gave the team a new Building Block card and inspiration was fuelled again. We noticed how the input of a different Building Block sparked new ideas and thoughts!
Seeing how the cards worked in a creative setting, the possibilities for the future are to be explored. As the Building Blocks card deck serves different starting points several opportunities lie ahead! Whether that is building an engaging exhibition from a theme or a tangible heritage object, or even the development of a course for students with academic heritage.
Are you curious about the Exhibition Building Blocks card deck? Reach out to Laura van der Linden or the Service Design team. We are happy to share the file of the card deck with you, so that you can experiment with the Building Blocks yourself!