Art-mapping smart-cities: accessing art collections outside the museum
Museums and the Web 2014
Silver Spring MD
In this paper I will discuss the outreach potential of those mobile museum applications that relate art collections to places on a digital map and in the real world, at first focusing my attention on a specific crowd-sourcing application and on a case study that illustrates its usage, then making more general observations on the related constructivist learning experience and recommendations on how to effectively adapt it to the city of Florence’s historical context. I will start describing the affordances of the Art Maps web-based application, a research project funded by Horizon and led by researchers at the Universities of Exeter and Nottingham in collaboration with the departments of Learning, Digital and Research at Tate, London. Such application allows users to access the Tate collection through a digital map from a desktop or mobile device, and invites them to comment on an artwork and either confirm its proposed location, or suggest a new one according to their prior knowledge and experience of a place or an artwork, in a crowdsourcing exercise that aims at mapping a total of 70,000 works around the world. I will then present the Migrants Resource Centre’s case study, recounting activities run at and around Tate Britain in November 2013 by the Art Maps Research Team and aimed at a group of women recently migrated to London from non-European countries. Through the Art Maps application, participants were encouraged to use artworks from the Tate collection as landmarks, to get familiar with their area of residence and foster their orientation skills both on a digital map and in the real world, but also to tap into their knowledge and experience of the borough to interpret selected Tate artworks and precisely mark them on the map. Using a co-constructivist framework, I will then discuss the participants’ learning experience, focusing in particular on the possible changes in confidence in accessing the collection they experienced, and on the nature of the digital crowd-sourcing collaboration they embarked upon in order to exactly place Tate artworks on the map. My argument is that applications such as Art Maps constitute an effective way to flatten the perceived barrier of the museum as an elite’s stronghold, bringing collections to the more neutral territory of the places where communities dwell in. Along these lines, I will propose the idea of running similar activities in Florence and illustrate some of the many ways Art Maps can effectively intertwine the city’s cultural heritage with artworks from the Tate collection. Attendees will be invited to access the application and contribute to it with their knowledge of the city, or use it to explore its historically rich areas. In conclusion, through this paper I intend to demonstrate how the relationship between art and place, experienced through flexible digital technologies greatly enhances the quality of engagement that community groups may experience, and encourages them to visit the museum in real life.
Paper presented at the international conference, Museums and the Web Florence (MWF2014) held in the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, Italy 19 to 21 February 2014