What is the Museum of Portable Sound?
First and foremost, it’s a museum.
Yes, a real museum.
The Museum of Portable Sound (est. London, UK, November 2015 by Dr John Kannenberg) is a portable museum dedicated to the culture and history of sound. Its headquarters is now located in Southsea, Portsmouth, and operates throughout the southern UK and anywhere its Director travels.
Since May of 2020, the museum has conducted online visits via video chat, and has now been visited by people all across Europe, North America, South America, Australia, India, Japan, and China.
The Museum’s Permanent Collection Galleries are filled with sound objects: curated digital audio files located only on the Museum Director‘s mobile phone. The sounds in our museum can only be heard by visiting with our Director (either in-person or online via video chat) and listening to our mobile phone – there is no app available to download and the sounds are not available online in any form.
It’s not an app.
It’s an experience.™
We are dedicated to the collection, preservation, and exhibition of field recordings: sounds collected outside of a controlled studio environment.
Our Permanent Collection Galleries are augmented with an ongoing series of temporary exhibits in our Exposition Space. The Museum also holds a Physical Object Collection related to portable sound, and maintains an extensive Research Library holding materials related to a cross-disciplinary study of sound and listening alongside experimental museum and curatorial practices. A Video Gallery features content from our YouTube Channel and elsewhere to give our visitors a visual way to learn about the culture of sound.
The Museum’s Education Department offers continuing education classes related to sound and museums. We have also participated in educational programmes at Bournemouth Film School; the Museum Studies programme at the UCL Institute of Archaeology; London’s Science Museum, Courtauld Institute, and Royal College of Art; the Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums, and Blossom House School in Motspur Park; and multiple universities across Europe and the United States.
You can read an interview with our Director for Curator: The Museum Journal, or his own article about working as a curator of sounds in their special sound-themed issue.
Or if you’re more interested in a non-academic opinion, check out profiles of us on Londonist and Atlas Obscura.
As an extension of our Education Department, in November 2021 our museum hosted its first-ever academic conference, Sound Beyond Music, a multi-day online event that challenged participants to discuss aspects of sound that did not involve music or sound art. The conference attracted presenters and guest speakers from across Europe, the Americas, and Australia – and also made history as the world’s first academic conference to have its own theme tune.
Where has the Museum of Portable Sound been presented?
So far, we’ve presented the museum and conducted in-person visits in eight countries – The UK, Portugal, Italy, Germany, Poland, Austria, Finland, and Azerbaijan – and fourteen cities – London, Bournemouth, Bradford, Gateshead, Oxford, Greenwich, Baku, Vienna, Lisbon, Warsaw, Karlsruhe, Tampere, Rome, and Venice. Now that we’re conducting Online Visits, we’ve had visitors from even more countries including Brazil, India, China, Japan, Australia, Switzerland, Denmark, Canada, and the United States.
Our website and Twitter feed have been archived by the British Library‘s UK Web Archive as part of their efforts to preserve the UK’s digital heritage.
We began as a live, in-person travelling museum, but the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 challenged us to find new ways to make our institution accessible. Like most cultural organisations, we pivoted online – but still refused to convert our museum into an app. Instead, we kept our visits focused around conversations between our Director/Chief Curator and our visitors, using video chat to present an all-new improvised and personalised experience unlike any other online exhibition. We documented this tumultuous year in our first ever Annual Report, and have kept offering online visits ever since – it has been wonderful to welcome new visitors from countries around the world!
Our 2019 Grand Re-Re-Re-Opening Celebration took place at the National Science and Media Museum in Bradford, UK on 1 July, the 40th anniversary of the Sony Walkman. Our Director not only relaunched our Permanent Collection galleries at this event, but also gave a lecture on the history and cultural impact of the Walkman. In conjunction with this event, he appeared in several international news stories about the Walkman’s 40th birthday after being interviewed by the Associated Press.
We’ve been visited in, and presented at, some of the world’s most important cultural institutions, including the British Museum, the V&A (at a sound-themed Friday Late), the London Science Museum, the Museum of Childhood, the Wellcome Collection, the Courtauld Institute, Tate Modern, Tate Britain, London’s Sky Garden, London’s National Theatre, London’s Graduate Fashion Week, St Paul’s Cathedral, the British Library, Museums Showoff London, the Science + Media Museum, the Tyne & Wear Archives, the Shipley Art Gallery, the Discovery Museum, Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, ZKM Center for Art and Media, MuseumsQuartier Wien, the Finnish Labour Museum Werstas, and the Moomin Museum.
We’ve been invited to discuss our museum at academic conferences around the world, including Sound Art Matters (Aarhus University); the International Sound Art Curating Conference (Aalborg University); the International Conference on Exhibiting Sounds of Changes (SOC Europe); The European Network of Science Centres & Museums (Ecsite) in Paris; and the International Committee for Museums and Collections of Archaeology and History conference on Museums, Collections, and Industrial Heritage (State Department of the Historical and Architectural Reserve of Icherisheher).
Our Director has lectured about our museum at UK and European universities and schools including the London College of Communication, the UCL Institute of Archaeology, Birkbeck University, the Royal College of Art, Royal Holloway, the University of Leicester Museum Studies programme, John Cabot University in Rome, and Blossom House School in New Malden.
We’ve been featured by STET bookshop in Lisbon, and have been visited in numerous cafés, restaurants, and pubs – including the oldest continuously operational coffee house in Europe. We’ve even conducted visits in people’s own homes. Since our museum is portable, the possibilities are endless!
The Museum of Portable Sound is a member of the UK Association of Independent Museums, Museums Association and the International Council of Museums. We thereby agree to abide by each organisation‘s code of ethics for museums.
Follow the Museum of Portable Sound on these sites:
Learn Even More About Us:
• Read our Mission Statement
• Get to know our Museum Staff
• Browse our Collections
• Read Reviews
• Listen to our Podcasts
• Read our online Magazine
While you’re here…
…we need your help. For four years, we have managed to keep admission to the Museum of Portable Sound free for all. But this model hasn’t proven to be sustainable. If you value what we do, and would like to help us continue to fulfil our mission of bringing the culture of sound to the world one visitor at a time, please consider making a donation or supporting us long-term on Patreon.
4 thoughts on “About”
I think what you are doing here is fantastic and wonderfully unique. Thank you.
Thanks very much, Gary!