Local BBC Sites

Page last updated at 15:41 GMT, Thursday, 13 May 2010 16:41 UK
Tales for sale at Oxfam charity shop in Manchester
Tagged teddy bear in Oxfam shop
Items have been tagged at the Oxfam shop on Oxford Road

by Richard Turner
BBC Manchester

A teddy bear. A silk bag from Thailand. A Chinese panda plate. A woman's pink jumper...

The sorts of second hand objects found in charity shops everywhere.

But an Oxfam shop in Manchester is asking people who turn up with a second hand item to record its story so anyone thinking of buying it can discover its past.

It's being piloted at the Oxford Road store as part of the FutureEverything festival (12-15 May).

The 'Remember Me' art project works by tagging ordinary objects in the charity shop with individual barcodes that connect to a piece of audio on the internet.

Emma Cooney, manager of Oxfam Whitworth Park
"It's nice for people to pass their story on" - Emma Cooney, Oxfam shop manager

The story is then played out over the shop's speakers.

Emma Cooney is the manager of the Whitworth Park branch on Oxford Road.

"People are really surprised that we've got this hi-tech stuff in our shop at the moment because people don't generally associate second hand shops with technology," she said.

Adding: "But they also find it really fun. Things that have got the 'Remember Me' tag on, they can walk around and get a story.

"They just look really amused and they want to have a go. And it's nice for people to pass their story on."

People like the unknown woman who donated a red silk bag from Thailand. A quick scan and her story can be heard:

"It was one of the very first things I bought when I went to visit my uncle and his wife Noy who live just outside Bangkok. It was also one of the very first times I got a tuk tuk and I nearly fell out in the middle of a motorway on the way back.

"So I risked life and limb to get that bag!"

Stripey jumper

Mike Quigley from the University of Salford is working on the project in Manchester.

stripey jumper
I've donated this pink stripey jumper because I wore it to a barbecue and I met a boy at the barbecue and he was my boyfriend for a few months but we're not together any more
Unknown donor

Scanning a woman's stripey jumper with the brown 'Remember Me' tag, he said: "This item is really interesting.

If you listen, you discover that it's actually been donated because someone wants to forget the memory associated with it."

Adding: "I think [hearing the stories] gives the objects a history, more of a depth and a rich feeling."

'Remember Me' uses technology available on the talesofthings.com website that allows users to attach memories to their objects in the form of video, text or audio.

"When people bring objects into the store we ask them if there is a story or a history with the object," said Mike again.

"If there is, we record a short piece of audio about the object which we upload to the internet and attach it to the talesofthings.com website.

So when people come in they can use their iPhone or their Android to connect to the website, or they can scan it with one of our readers in store, and they can hear the history of that object."

Adding: "I think it gives the objects more of a depth and a rich feeling."

Teddy bear

Chris Speed, from the Edinburgh College of Arts came up with the idea for 'Remember Me'. He said there is a commercial idea behind it.

Oxfam shop
I think there is a great interest in the idea that things do come from someone somewhere, particularly in Oxfam shops.
Chris Speed, Edinburgh College of Arts

"Everyone in the world has got used to barcodes being attached to things that you buy. The problem is that one barcode is attached to one huge product line eg. all the cans of coke in the UK have got one barcode on them.

"The future is changing and businesses are beginning to want to know how to barcode individual objects.

So, as a research project, what we're doing is to allow people to come into the store and attach a unique barcode for that one item.

"I think there is a great interest in the idea that things do come from someone somewhere, particularly in Oxfam shops."

And his favourite object in the Oxford Road shop?

"I think the teddy bear is great," he said.

"Everyone's got a teddy bear, haven't they? And a teddy bear has been there with them, through nightmares at night and through tears and through love.

"It's quite a powerful object and once you hear someone's voice as though they were a ghost, it evokes such powerful memories."

Future Everything is a festival of digital culture in Manchester (12 - 15 May)

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific