Museum of Australian Democracy
The Card Castle Project - building trust in democracy one card at a time
Democracy is under threat worldwide and recent Australian research by the Museum of Australian Democracy (MoAD) and the Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis (IGPA)
shows that levels of trust in government and politicians are at their lowest level since 1993. MoAD’s vision is to celebrate the spirt of Australian democracy and enrich people’s understanding of its value. To help achieve this vision, over four nights in March 2018, thousands of visitors contributed to the construction of a colourful Card Castle in the King’s Hall of the Museum. This community outreach exercise enabled visitors to be a part of a public discourse on democracy.
The 2018 Card Castle project took place during the popular Enlighten Festival held in the Parliamentary Triangle. Visitors were invited to write on the cards and create the castle. It was modular, so its set-up was flexible and the structure adaptable. The cards, stickers, prompt sheets and music established a highly vibrant environment and encouraged multiple forms of engagement.
This project was about the community coming together to uplift one another and to participate in a ‘layered experience’. Slotting cards together created meaning for the project as individuals came together as one unit, linking and sharing their voices.
The project aligned with MoAD’s key messages of:
Celebrating the spirit of Australian democracy and the power of our voices within it.
Contribute a personal story that highlights the best of our shared humanity.
MoAD Card Castle Project, © Makework
Visitors produced 4,418 individual cardboard shapes that linked together to build the large-scale Card Castle installation. This number represents the number of cards contributed to Card Castle over the four nights. However, participation in the production of messages was much higher than this figure, as staff observations indicate that groups of people contributed to cards collectively.
Creating a welcoming atmosphere was an essential part of the project. MOAD staff had expected that some visitors would participate by writing on the cards, putting them into the structure and walking away. However, many visitors were observed taking the project seriously and taking the time to think about what they wanted to write and contribute to the project.
Social media participation reached 97,087 people with 1,601 total engagement including comments, shares and likes. Participants were encouraged to take ‘selfies’ and share their Card Castle experience with their personal online communities. The team saw a dramatic increase in people demonstrating these behaviours ‘organically’. For example, The #CardCastle hashtag grew organically amongst visitors as they shared their experiences on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
MoAD Card Castle Project, © Makework
Each night there were 30 to 40 MoAD staff and volunteers onsite. Some of these individuals worked over the four nights, whilst others rotated. During the event facilitators were stationed at key sites in the installation to assist visitors.
Key stakeholders in the event were:
Enlighten Festival 2018
Old Parliament House
MOAD Executives, staff, contact event officers
The targeted audiences were:
National and international adolescents and university students aged 18-25, females and males
Repeated visitors/traditional audiences
The project was shortlisted for a Museum Australasia Multimedia and Publication Design Award (MAPDA) for the Card Castle design.
Community interest in Card Castle also led Exhibition staff to trial Card Castle Community Outreach at Gungahlin College in May 2018.
The key challenges of the Card Castle project included a minimal budget and limited time frame. The small budget allocated required substantial resource efficiency and careful sourcing on the part of the creative producers. Further, development of the 2018 Enlighten concept only began in the second week of January, for delivery on the first weekend in March.
Another key challenge was designing and delivering a highly participatory installation that posed no risks to the King’s Hall site. Old Parliament House is heritage-listed, and the Card Castle team was required to treat it as a living object, with diligence and care.
In 2019, MoAD will aim to start the project earlier, taking into account the challenges identified in 2018 as well as the budget, resources and facilitators.