What is object retrieval?

1 object explored for 7 days, 24 hours a day, by a rolling team of researchers from the arts and sciences.

Object Retrieval has a simple premise - to uncover as much information as possible about one object from UCL’s Museums & Collections in the space of 7 days.

By inviting as many experts from as many subjects as we can muster as well as members of the general public to explore the object, we hope to amass a huge, potentially limitless biography of the object. We hope that these contributions will include scientific analyses of the object, personal anecdotes, drawings, anthropological accounts and many many more types of information.

The identity of the object will remain hidden until Object Retrieval opens but could be anything from a priceless Renaissance artwork to the skeleton of the long extinct Quagga, a 5000 year old Egyptian dancer’s dress to a large hunk of lava from the Great Cone of Mount Vesuvius. In a sense though it is not important what the object is as we are confident that any object put under close scrutiny for a week will accrue a large and fascinating biography.

Object Retrieval was conceived as a result of an intense period of research and development by Joshua Sofaer within UCL’s extraordinary Museums & Collections. It is inspired by 3 main ideas:

The value of interdisciplinary research within a 21st century university and beyond;
The challenges faced by museums to interpret objects in a constantly shifting society;
Art as a means to allow people to stand outside of their own personal and professional bounds and take a fresh look at something they thought they already knew about.

Object Retrieval is a project which is approachable on many levels. Whether it is seen as a conceptual artwork, an experimental research exercise or as a fun day out, its overall aim remains the same, to provide a stimulating way to get people thinking in new ways about just one thing.

How to take part
Object Retrieval will take place on a converted Routemaster Bus in the main UCL Quad on Gower Street, London. It is open and free for everyone. When the object is revealed on 15 October 2009, we really want you to join in by contributing your knowledge and expertise or even just a simple comment. To do this you can join us on the bus, explore and upload information to the website from wherever you are or email us.

Object Retrieval
‘You are the Routemaster’
15 - 21 October 2009
UCL, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT
Map – Click here.

Object Retrieval is a project by artist Joshua Sofaer and is curated by Simon Gould in association with UCL Museums & Collections. The Research Provocateurs are Richard Allen, Rhiannon Armstrong, Katy Beinart, Simon Bowes, Camilla Brueton, Catherine Hoffmann and Ruth Holdsworth. The Object Retrieval website has been created by the Ligatus Research Unit at the University of the Arts London in collaboration with Object Retrieval.