In the digital world, I expect museums to provide the information that they cannot provide in the physical exhibit. At least a catalog which can be used for in depth research, like that at the British Museum in London. All of the metadata and past articles and exhibits created by the museum should be online. Anything beyond the catalog I would consider extra with the museum going above and beyond. Social media, while good for advertisement, I consider unnecessary as they do not contribute to the information of objects. Most digital work is for exposure and not necessarily for education.
I have only taken an online course once before and my experience with it was not satisfactory. Honestly, I dislike the idea of online courses. For people who are in a position where they cannot attend school, I understand the necessity but opting for internet learning as opposed to personal experience and interaction seems unrealistic. The best version of a digital course I can think of would be based around independent research. The student would be monitored by regular interaction every week by the instructor online and would have more free-reign to build their own project. Particularly for digital projects, such as 3D modeling, the students would collaborate online while all viewing the same model and suggesting changes. However, I do not think traditional learning can take place over the internet.
I found this series a while back when I was exploring videos on ancient history. This particular one is about the life of adolescent girls in ancient Rome. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RQMgLxVxsrw
There are others along the same topic of history and random interesting concepts that have good imagery and narration. In general, TED Education tends to pick interesting topics that people are likely to click on and the content is well-rounded making it enjoyable. The videos are not too long but they provide a good amount of content.
For this week, I read about the Love and Sorrow exhibit in Australia about the psychological and emotional damage of World War I. The exhibit focuses on the story of eight families and utilized a phone app to guide a visitor through the museum. The app is expected to be downloaded prior to entry into the museum. I must wonder at how they accomplish this and how one might view the exhibit without a phone app. As I understand it, the exhibit is highly dependent upon having the app to guide you through the exhibit.
Upon entering, the visitor must select a single family to follow and download the package about them. They are guided by location on Bluetooth promoting numerous stories and content pop ups. ALthough this whole process seems cool and innovative, it is rather selective in terms of its viewership. What if people do not have a smart phone? What if their phone does not have a particular program needed to work the app? What if they are small children who do not yet have a phone? This exhibit would seem to exclude poorer classes of society from getting the full experience of the exhibit. It would be nice if the museum could somehow provide people with the technology rather than expecting them to own it. This process seems to put too much pressure on the visitor to go through numerous digital acts in order to learn.
Also, by limiting the visitor to one families story, they are kept from learning the story of the other seven families. In order to hear both stories in full, this app process forces the visitor to go back through the exhibit eight times in order to get the full content. The visitor also cannot go back and experience the app after leaving the museum or before entering the museum since the app is location activated. The location aspect of the app I think goes against the purpose of the museum; to spread knowledge to all levels of society. In this case, technology in the museum only seems to exclude rather than include and supplement the learning of the visitor.
How much should museums interact with digital technology and at what point does technology surpass the experience of the art piece? I remember a few years ago there was a particular piece at the Hammer Museum where visitors would walk into a blacked-out room where a large wooden shed stood. Upon entering, they would see one wall completely made of sharp metal spikes that came to a center. Visitors could also walk around outside of the shed and see the perspective from the outside. Somehow I cannot imagine a digital version of this piece. Although pictures would be cool, there were certain moods that helped make up the piece. Indeed, a particular perfume was sprayed on the spikes each morning giving them a scent which added to the art. Just like the Sugar Baby exhibit, digital visitors would lose out on certain experiences that could only be gained by seeing it in first person.
Full body experiences seem to be the new form of artwork surrounding the visitor with a sensation. Digital technology cannot do much to this end and instead we may be left with a second-rate form of art. As the Rhizome article says, museums need to “digitize to survive” but perhaps artists are becoming aware of this by trying to draw the public out of their phones into full body experiences. After all, is it really an art experience if you view it through the same device you use to write papers, go on social media, and watch cat videos? I think that although museums are evolving to incorporate and use digital technology more, artists are responding by making pieces that cannot be into digital form. Besides, art is usually something shocking that forces the viewer to think differently than they had before. Perhaps art is rebelling against this new digital age?
As an anthropologist, I love the idea of museums playing nice with the cultures they represent. In Zange’s piece, the work between the tribe and museum perfectly illustrates how communities should be involved with their museums. Although reading through these articles, I had to laugh at how simple this all sounds…
Behold, the Elgin Marbles! Otherwise known as the architectural friezes that once made up the Parthenon in Greece. But they are not in Greece at the moment and have not been for several decades. They are in the British Museum in London proudly displayed in a large room mimicking the original Parthenon. The politics behind these pieces is an interesting one. To keep it short, they were acquired by the British many years ago and the museum has refused to return them to Greece, partially arguing that the Greeks could not take care of such precious pieces. The Greeks, in response, send demands every year for the pieces to be returned and even have a whole section of their museum set for the display of the marbles; pedestal, placards, and all.
Although circumstances like Zange’s are ideal, they rarely occur. Improper display of cultural pieces is not the only point to consider here but also the technical theft of the object itself. While the pieces made have been acquired legally, home countries always argue the legitimacy of the dealings (as they took place decades ago). Egyptian pieces were also removed during the excavations in the early 1900s with some partially shady dealings.
While it would be nice for everyone to return the pieces to their heritage country we would be left to ponder the next problem? How do we experience other cultures if we are unable to travel there? If a country is unwilling to part with any object, how can we learn about that culture? Perhaps technology really is the answer here. Acting as a replacement for the object, 3D visuals and interaction could be used in museums to avoid nasty politics. Unfortunately, having the original piece still generates public interest and increased revenue so there is a monetary benefit to have the originals…
I realize that the readings for this week were focused on data and metadata but I could not get passed the poor use of technology. Going through the readings I realized the importance of doing technology right. Just because something can be done, does not mean it should be done. The same can be said for museums an their collections. Technology should be integrated into the museum because it has a use to serve in the growing demand of the public. However using technology for the sake of using technology merely wastes time and confuses people.
The Cooper-Hewitt piece is one example. While the author may have approached the subject with a particular question in mind, he did not accomplish much; nor was he able to convey anything interesting to the audience. His analysis produced a table of colors but not much interpretation. For another example, the piece by Bellander has a topic in mind and interpretation. However he spends most of his article focusing on the code and the methods he used. While this is relevant, he does not keep his audience in mind focusing on concepts most would not understand or find interesting. Only later in his article does he actually get to the important interpretations. A good example of applied technology is the DH project on Turner. The project is clear and defined in the analysis and interpretations.
In the earlier two cases, the use of technology is poorly applied; an example of when people and museums use fancy technology for projects that do not need it. Technology should therefore be applied wisely and be used to extend or supplement the current collection. If the digital applications put forth by the museum are to frustrating and boring for the public, the technology will only hinder the exhibit. For example, audio guides can be either a hit or miss with some museums. The success and attractiveness of the guides depends on the script, choice of content, narrator, and the length of each audio clip. A guide that is long-winded, mono-toned, and boring will only discourage viewers from learning more about the museum and its collections. Curators and researchers should therefore use technology cautiously.
In reading Weil, I was interested in the general role of the museum. What purpose does the museum serve? Namely, does the institution provide special services to the visitors or does it focus on the objects while allowing the public to view the process? If the first, the museum would be considered a business, selling a product of cultural capital to the middle class public. The implementation of technology in this case would therefore mean that they are just expanding there means to sell. They cannot give too much information via digital platforms as this would negate the need to visit the museum in person and pay admission. Still, minor platforms can be used as a means of advertising and attracting new customers. While some museums have free admission, all museums rely on donors which make up a large portion of funding. The more well-know a museum is, the likelihood for funding will increase.
In light of the business model, I am hesitant towards accepting museums as saintly institutions. There is just as much politics and controversy behind the intellectual shroud as any other corporation. On the other hand, if the museum focuses on the pieces instead of the public, they limit the ability of the outside world to learn. Culture and art would therefore be limited only to the few who spend their lives researching it. While the objects are far safer in this situation, they are not shared with masses and open for education. In extreme cases, one could eliminate the need for museums in general an replace everything with digital technology. However humanity itself is affected as the need for human creation is eliminated from the process. If people were to solely interact with a screen and digital platforms they would lose the direct contact they would naturally have by interacting with another individual’s work in person. Putting everything in digital form eliminates the drive to create in the first place. If artists know their work will never be put in an institution, they may not bother to make art at all, although some will switch to the digital form.