Activating Museums’ Data for Research, Scholarship, and Public Engagement
Starting two decades ago, museums across the globe began to digitize the objects in their collections, capturing images of the objects along with extensive metadata, including curatorial commentary, notes on the object’s provenance, information about its creator, its history of inclusion in exhibitions, restoration records, conservation instructions, and so on. Yet apart from a few notable exceptions, the vast majority of this information remains walled-off within the proprietary collection management system of individual institutions.
Both individually and in the aggregate, what can these objects and collections tell us about the history of art, culture, and society? What can we learn by studying the changes over time in the ways that art and other cultural artifacts are produced, the relationships between the producers and the collectors, and the dynamics of art markets?
In 2017, CDA’s Dr. Anne Luther led the formation of this international research consortium to study these digital collections. In its first active year, the consortium is planning a series of “data sprints” to engage with the collections data of several significant art institutions and begin to answer some of the questions above. By spring of 2018, we will begin to release open source software tools and visualization technology enabling scholars, curators, artists, and commercial art professionals, to examine art collections and collecting activity as dynamic ecosystems across geography and over time.
This effort will also enable us to begin mapping the global network of relationships that link artists, collectors, curators, institutions, and individual works of art.
The Center for Data Arts at The New School
Medialab Sciences Po Paris
The Chair for Modern Art History at the Technische Universität Berlin
This work builds on past PIIM projects such as the Entity Mapper, a tool for visualizing qualitative data: as a network of associations and relationships, revealing underlying economic, social, and political forces that exist between actors in the art world, and CDA Director Ben Rubin’s work on “A Sort of Joy” (2015), a live performance of MoMA’s collection database.