The British Library has announced its exhibition program for 2023, and the program includes Digital Storytelling, an celebration of interactive storytelling, starting in June, which includes items from the brilliant, long-running Clockwork Watch project.
For those unfamiliar, Clockwork Watch, set in a retro-futurist steampunk Victorian England, is an award-winning, immersive participatory story that has been running for over eleven years now, that invites creative participation. The narrative is played out across graphic novels, interactive promenade theatre, freeform role-play, online adventures, and an online newspaper.
This project introduces a non-colonial style of Victoriana, set at a time when mechanics and science are the two most important developments in the world. The aim is to chart the development of such technologies as the story progresses.
The transmedia framework is a sandpit where participants can experience a “make believe” universe, interact with a story narrative, contribute to an alternate history of the steampunk genre, and propose creative adjustments to the Clockwork Watch story universe.
Created by Yomi Ayeni of Articipate Media, Clockwork Watch is a collaboration of talents, including Corey Brotherson and artists such as Jennie Gyllblad and Megan Bradbury. The world began with a shared story-world prologue with contributions from patrons who crowdfunded the project, including the first 40 people to pre-order copies of The Arrival, the project’s first graphic novel.
Since 2011, the project has produced an astonishing array of artefacts, and the new British Library exhibition will include many of the aspects used to create this unique participatory world over the past eleven years – books, posters, photographs, artefacts, and co-created stories.
The British Library‘s 2023 exhibitions weave together literature, science, art, film and sound across cultures and time to deliver a range of experiences that will inspire and surprise audiences of all ages. Details are as follows…
Animals (21st April – 27th August 2023)
Featuring artworks, manuscripts, sound recordings and printed publications, this exhibition explores how humans have documented animals over the past 2000 years.
Journeying through darkness, water, land and air, this atmospheric exhibition reveals how the intersection of science, art and sound has been instrumental in understanding animals. It delves into the discovery, conservation and extinction of a range of species, from bats, butterflies and birds to sharks, squid and snakes, to uncover how people have visualised and recorded animals over time.
Items on display include Robert Hooke’s Micrographia (1665), one of the earliest works on the microscopic world, John James Audubon’s seminal book The Birds of America (1827-38), which took over 10 years to complete, and the influential album Songs of the Humpback Whale (1970), which became part of the international campaign to end commercial whale hunting.
This exhibition is made possible with support from the Getty Foundation through The Paper Project initiative.
Digital Storytelling (2nd June 2023 – 15th October 2023)
This exhibition explores the many ways expanding technologies have transformed and enhanced our narrative experiences, from the widely popular audio fiction running app, Zombies, Run!, to award winning interactive adventure, 80 Days, to experimental electronic literature.
This hands-on exhibition reflects the wide range of creative and innovative possibilities of digital storytelling. It invites readers to become a part of the story themselves, through interactive works that invite and respond to user input, reading experiences influenced by data feeds, and works that draw from multiple platforms and audience participation to create immersive story worlds.
- c ya laterrrr by Dan Hett, an intimate autobiographical hypertext account of the 2017 Manchester Arena terrorist attack
- Breathe by Kate Pullinger, ‘a ghost story that follows you around’, reacting to the reader’s real-time data as the story unfolds
- Astrologaster, an interactive comedy based on the archival casebooks of Elizabethan medical astrologist Simon Forman
- Clockwork Watch, set in a retro-futurist steampunk Victorian England, the story invites creative participation and is told through graphic novels, an online newspaper and immersive theatrical events.
Fantasy (27th October 2023 – 25th February 2024)
From ancient texts to anime, Sir Gawain to The Sandman, fairy tales and films to graphic novels, video games and fan culture, this exhibition dives deep into some of fantasy literature’s defining moments. Spanning centuries and continents, the exhibition illustrates the varied ways in which readers are enchanted by fantasy, which can serve as both an escape from and a reflection upon the world we live in.
The exhibition invites visitors to immerse themselves in the otherworldly; to revisit beloved stories and encounter new ones; and to explore our enduring fascination with fantasy literature and its ability to invent and reimagine worlds across time, space, and cultures.
• All the Clockwork Watch books are available through the Clockwork Watch online shop and select comic shops such as Page Forty Five