Reactor

Two Major Museums Push the Boundaries of Multimedia

by Kyle Chayka on February 6, 2013

Detail of Tiepolo's "Triump of Marius" (Screenshot by Hyperallergic)

Detail of Tiepolo’s “Triumph of Marius” (Screenshot by Hyperallergic)

If 2012 saw museums like the Walker and the New Museum embrace the medium of the internet with redesigned websites and social media presences, 2013 might signal a renaissance for museums and multimedia. Both the Getty and the Metropolitan Museum have just launched new photo and video initiatives.

The Getty’s Getty Voices 

Screenshot from Getty Voices by Hyperallergic

Screenshot from Getty Voices by Hyperallergic

The Getty’s new Getty Voices is a social media and video project that will feature one member of the Getty community each week. This includes staff, scholars, docents, and invited speakers, each taking a turn controlling Getty’s social media voice. A two-minute video feature will accompany each new voice.

The first entry into the series features Claudia Cancino, a conservator who studies architecture. She’s currently working on cathedrals in Ica, Peru that were damaged in a 2007 earthquake. The buildings are often made of compacted earth — her trip was “an opportunity to go and see how this cathedral behaved, and why did it fail,” she says in the clip (below).

The Met’s 82nd & Fifth

Interactive map of Frank Lloyd Wright's Little House (screenshot by Hyperallergic)

Interactive map of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Little House (screenshot by Hyperallergic)

With its dedicated multimedia department, the Metropolitan has been pushing the envelope of video and online interactive content. Their new yearlong series 82nd & Fifth (named for their address) features curators discussing specific objects that have inspired them. Xavier Salomon speaks eloquently on Tiepolo’s dramatic set piece “The Triumph of Marius” (1729), while Amelia Peck explores the living room of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Little House.

In both video features, which include extensive original photography that forms the highlight of the series, the love each curator hold for their chosen object is palpable. It’s fun to hear someone wax poetic about what they like. But I wish the Met hadn’t continued the annoying habit of cutting together interview clips into semi-full sentences as narration. Can’t you have the curators write something first? They’re probably used to it.

Following the video feature is an Explore section, which lets visitors interact with cool multimedia elements drawn from the object. It’s possible to view close-ups of Tiepolo’s painting, or view Wright’s design from multiple angles shown in vintage photographs.

Museums are continuously pushing the envelope of how we experience the objects under their stewardship and access the work that they do. These features expose the side of the museum — the experts, the conservation work, the tireless scholarship — that were previously hidden from the public. Let’s hope there’s more of this transparency and more to appreciate in the future.

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