About

What is the Museum of Portable Sound?

First and foremost, it’s a museum.

Yes, a real museum.

The Museum of Portable Sound's new permanent home – an iPhone 4S.
The Museum of Portable Sound’s permanent home: an iPhone 4S.

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.™

visitors
We host visitors in person and online, in groups or one-to-one. Every one of our nearly 2,000 visitors has met personally with our Director and Chief Curator, allowing for instant feedback and constructive criticism to be implemented quickly and efficiently!

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.

Our Museum Campus Map depicts everything that is stored on the MOPS iPhone 4S. Our physical collections live in our Director’s flat in Portsmouth, which he refers to as Museum of Portable Sound Laboratories.

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.

Our Workshops, Soundwalks, Lectures, and Field Recording classes have been attended by students around the world. Learn more in our Education section.

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?

WeGetAround

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.

In 2020 we were invited to participate in the Art By Appointment residency at the Little Theatre Auditorium in New London, Minnesota – a rural town of 1,252 people – to present guided tours of MOPS live via video chat within a specially installed, socially distanced exhibit designed for one or two visitors at a time during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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!

Museum of Portable Sound Annual Report 2020 Cover
Download a PDF of our 2020 Annual Report.

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.

Museum of Portable Sound Director John Kannenberg discusses the Walkman's place on our Gallery Guide's Audio Format Timeline at our Grand Re-Re-Re-Opening event 40 Years of Portable Sound at the National Science and Media Museum, Bradford, UK, 1 July 2019.
Museum of Portable Sound Director John Kannenberg discusses the Walkman’s place on our Gallery Guide’s Audio Format Timeline at our Grand Re-Re-Re-Opening event 40 Years of Portable Sound at the National Science and Media Museum, Bradford, UK, 1 July 2019. Photo by NSMM Curator of Sound Technologies Annie Jamieson.

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.

Clockwise from Top Left: At BBC Studios in London with David Sillito to discuss the future of silence on BBC Radio 4; presenting MOPS at the ZKM Center for Art and Media in Karlsruhe, Germany; with host Zoe Laughlin discussing the history of headphones on BBC TV; presenting MOPS and intangible industrial heritage to the International Committee for Museums and Collections of Archaeology and History (ICMAH) in Baku, Azerbaijan.

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).

MOPS Director John Kannenberg leading a tour group visiting the Museum of Portable Sound during Friday Late: Sonic Boom at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, 20 February 2019. Photo © Hydar Dewachi.
MOPS Director John Kannenberg leading a tour group visiting the Museum of Portable Sound during Friday Late: Sonic Boom at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, 20 February 2019. Photo © Hydar Dewachi.

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 hosted visits in people’s homes, on street corners, and in the oldest operational coffee house in Europe; we’ve been visited (and actually listened to!) by newborns and people nearly a century old.

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!

Professional Affiliations

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.

Social Media

Follow the Museum of Portable Sound on these sites:

Facebook
Twitter
Instagram
YouTube

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.

DONATE
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