The report The Future of Museums in the Digital Age discussed some of the ways museums are evolving to appeal to different generations of visitors and create new types of experiences for visitors. Here’s a perfect example.
The Walters Art Museum in Baltimore will host its second annual hackathon, Art Bytes II, where technology and creative communities work together to build programs and applications to enhance the museum experience for visitors.
The event will be at the Walters Art Museum from Friday, January 24–Sunday, January 26, 2014. Technologists, innovators, scholars and artists will coalesce into teams in the Walters’ Sculpture Court to design and develop their solutions.
“Art has the power to bring people from diverse backgrounds together for enjoyment, discovery and learning,” says Jim Maza, chief technology officer at the Walters. “For the second year, we look forward to gathering some of our area’s most talented professionals to explore ways in which technology can help us make a museum visit a richer experience for everyone.”
Art Bytes participants will be able to visit the museum’s galleries for inspiration throughout the weekend while museum staff will be on hand to provide support for the projects. Leaders of the technology and innovation communities will judge which teams were most successful. The experience of Art Bytes will be captured on video and displayed online. $5,000 in prize money will be awarded.
At the first Art Bytes Project teams employed a number of emerging technologies, including 3D printing, augmented reality and geo-location. Participants developed Frame, a web app optimized for mobile phones which provides additional context to the artwork people see in the Walters and an API, or application programming interface, that allows computer programs to communicate with each other. The Walters’ API allows applications to use data about the Walters collection and will be available for participants to use during the Hackathon.
About the Walters Museum
The Walters Art Museum is located in downtown Baltimore’s historic Mount Vernon Cultural District at North Charles and Centre Streets. At the time of his death in 1931, museum founder Henry Walters left his entire collection of art – including a legendary collection of illuminated medieval manuscripts that is a national treasure – to the city of Baltimore. Between 1895 and 1931, Walters collected around 730 codices. Its permanent collection includes ancient art, medieval art and manuscripts, decorative objects, Asian art and Old Master and 19th-century paintings.
As part of a major global expansion of its Art Project, Google has signed new partnerships with 151 art institutions in 40 countries. More than 30,000 objects are now available to view online in high resolution, up from 1,000 in the first version of the Art Project. Street View images now cover 46 museums, with more on the way.
With a few simple clicks, art lovers can discover not just paintings, but also sculpture, street art, photographs, historic and religious artifacts, and important manuscripts.Creations from a wide variety of cultures and civilizations are represented, including Brazilian street graffiti, Islamic decorative arts and ancient African rock art.
The expanded Art Project includes a wide range of institutions, including large and small traditional art museums as well as less traditional settings for great art, including the White House in Washington D.C.
Some of the new partners in the U.S. include the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, the Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia, the Cincinnati Art Museum, and the Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston, South Carolina.
New partners worldwide include: the Musée d’Orsay in Paris; the Museo del Oro in Bogotá, Colombia; The Rock Art Ressearch Institute in Johannesburg, South Africa; The Arab Museum of Modern Art in Qatar; the Museum of Modern Art in Sao Paulo, Brazil; the Tokyo National Museum in Japan; the Hong Kong Museum of Art in China; and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Australia.
According to Art Project head Amit Sood, the project was expanded worldwide because “It’s no longer just about the Indian student wanting to visit Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. It is now also about the American student wanting to visit the National Gallery of Modern Art in Delhi.”
How the Google Art Project Works
If you want to explore museums around the world without leaving home, you can enjoy either a “museum view” of various galleries within selected museums or get a “microscopic view” of selected artwork from each institution.
For the museum views, a specially designed Street View ‘trolley’ took 360 degree images of the interiors of selected galleries. These images were then stitched together to enable smooth navigation within each room. The gallery interiors can also be explored directly from within Street View in Google Maps.
Some of the 30,000+ high-resolution artworks were photographed in extraordinary detail using super high resolution or ‘gigapixel’ photo capturing technology. Gigapixel imaging technology can create files containing more than 7 billion pixels (about 1000 times more detailed than the average camera). With these super-high-resolution images, you can study details of the brushwork and patina beyond what is possible with the naked eye.
Discovering, Learning, and Sharing
You can browse the content of Google’s Art Project by the artist’s name, the artwork, the type of art, the museum, the country, the city and the collection. Using new Explore and Discover tools, you can find artworks by period, artist, or type of artwork from different museums around the world.
To help you learn more about the items each museum chose to display on Art Project, you can enjoy expertly narrated videos, audio guides, viewing notes, and other resources provided by the museums.
With the My Gallery feature, you can select any of the 30,000 artworks (along with favorite details) and build your own personalized gallery. You can add comments to each painting and share the whole collection with friends, family, and study groups. Google+ and video hangouts are integrated on the site to make it easy to share and talk about your galleries. You can upload and share audio and video content to your collections.
Some teachers have already begun using the Art Project in their classrooms. A dedicated Education section has been created for teachers and students.
For the next phase of the project, Google is considering developing an experimental section to show how artists are using new emerging technologies to showcase their art.
Bringing Culture Online
“Google is committed to bringing all types of culture online and making it accessible,” says Nelson Mattos, VP of Engineering for Google. “The Art Project demonstrates how the Internet helps spread knowledge.”
Under the auspices of its Cultural Institute, Google is producing high resolution images of the Dead Sea Scrolls, digitizing the archives of famous figures such as Nelson Mandela, and creating 3D models of 18th century French cities.
Any creative professional who wants to design or produce museum exhibits should pay attention to how museums are adapting to today’s socially networked, multimedia culture. For example, here are three news items that caught my eye.
Reinventing the Museum Experience in the Digital Age
Maggie Burnette Stogner, a professor in the film and media arts department at American University, is helping exhibit producers use new media technologies to create immersive storytelling experiences at cultural museums.
While many museums continue to display artifacts in cases with small text labels, others have started using high-definition videos, photomurals, 3D computer animations, and digital audio for voice, music, and soundscapes.
Immersive exhibits have enabled museum visitors to explore the pirate ship Whydah with its captain Sam Bellamy, view 3D CT scans of King Tut, and take an intimate tour of Egyptian artifacts guided by Cleopatra.
“This engagement is critical at a time when cultural museum attendance is seriously declining,” said Stogner. “Younger generations learn in very different styles than the traditional approach offered by many cultural museums. They are growing up in a media-rich, networked society, and have different expectations.”
She points out the immersive exhibits also appeal to ethnically diverse crowds
and older visitors. Compared to text labels and tour guides, integrated multimedia exhibits can provide a more effective educational experience to persons with visual or hearing impairments.
“Culture is all about our human stories,” says Stogner. “It is how we, as humans, share who we are, what we believe in, what we fear or love, what we hope for, and how we live. We have communicated our culture through multimedia storytelling from the earliest cave drawings and stories around the fire pit. Immersive media technologies are an evolving means to tell and share those stories.”
“Today’s new media technologies have tremendous potential to enliven and give meaning to ancient cultures and historical events of the past,” said Stogner. “But they must be used with a strong commitment to content research and quality.”
Digital Images of Yale’s Cultural Collections Now Available for Free
Yale University’s new open access policy will give scholars, artists, and other individuals around the world free access to online images of millions of objects housed in Yale’s museums, archives, and libraries.
So far, more than 250,000 images that in the public domain have been made available. No license will be required for the transmission of the images and no limitations will be imposed on their use. As a result, scholars, artists, students, and citizens around the world will be able to use these collections for study, publication, teaching, and inspiration.
Increased access to high-quality content and new linked data technologies will revolutionize the way people search and relate to cultural objects, says Meg Bellinger, director of the Yale Office of Digital Assets and Infrastructure.
Press Release: Digital Images of Yale’s Vast Cultural Collections Now Available for Free
Museum Asks Visitors to Comment on Rarely Shown Works
Earlier this year the Mobile Museum of Art gave visitors a chance to review, describe, and photograph artworks for possible future use in upcoming museum publications and displays.
In an exhibit entitled “Art at Random: Selections from the Permanent Collection,” the museum curatorial staff displayed some of the 9,500 pieces that museum has accumulated through gifts or purchases since 1963. A random number generator was used to determine which of the items in storage would be put on display.
Visitors were invited to share their thoughts and feelings about the displayed pieces and make suggestions about the type and amount of information contained in the text panels.
Museum visitors were also invited to write detailed descriptions of the artworks or use their camera phones or other cameras to photograph the exhibited items. Visitors could email these images and descriptions to the museum staff or upload them to the museum’s Facebook page.
The curators at the Mobile Museum of Art is using the feedback to help them understand what type of information visitors would like to see, both in gallery exhibits and in the searchable, online database they are developing for the collected works.
In a blog post on al.com, reporter Thomas B. Harrison quoted museum director Tommy McPherson as saying, “People have a longstanding curiosity about museums and what’s in storage. Traditionally, we only pull things out when we have an academic purpose for it.”
Thus, many of the works in the “Art at Random” exhibit had seldom been exhibited. McPherson said one of the goals of the exhibit was to help people better understand what accredited museums do for their communities.
Al.com Blog Post: Art Museum Allow Visitors a Peek Into the Vault
Press Release: New Exhibition Gives Visitors a Chance to Help Museum
Although art lovers will continue to treasure beautifully printed art books, expect to see more museums make some titles available as e-books.
For example, with the new MoMA Books application from The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), Apple iPad users can purchase, download, and read MoMA e-books, including favorite backlist titles that are no longer available in print. The MoMA Books App also provides convenient access to exhibition catalogues, scholarly texts on key works and artists in collection, and anthologies of important art-historical texts from around the world. In other words, the e-books provide a way to disseminate a lot more knowledge about the works in the museum’s collections.
With the digital bookshelf in the MoMA Books App, you can preview free sample sections of each book’s contents and purchase books through your Apple ID and account. Once you download an e-book to the MoMA’s App’s Library, you can enjoy an enriched reading experience directly within the App.
MoMA e-books preserve the original design and layout of the print book while enabling you to zoom in on superb, high-resolution reproductions of artwork for close study of details.
You can also bookmark favorite pages for future reference. As more MoMA e-books become available, the App will automatically prompt you to update their browsing shelf to show new titles.
If you want to explore collection works, check the exhibition schedule, or purchase admission tickets, the MoMA Books App lets you link directly to MoMA.org. Recent MoMA books that are not yet available as e-books can be purchased through a direct link to MoMAStore.org.
The MoMA Books App is available as a free download from the App Store.
If you don’t have an iPad, you can purchase and download MoMA e-books to your personal computer through the MoMA Store.