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Interactive Maps of the Metropolitan Museum Offer Fresh Views of Its Permanent Collections

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Liz Enright’s illustrations of the Met’s Japanese galleries (screenshots via metmuseum.mappped.com)

It’s fun to wander around the Metropolitan Museum of Art without a paper guide, but students in the School of Visual Arts’ MFA Visual Narrative program have created a number of creative, interactive maps for the museum well worth consulting. Created in collaboration with the Met MediaLab and curated by SVA professor Tim Szetela, the web-based MAPPING THE MET presents eight mixed media maps based on data the students collected from various galleries housing the museum’s permanent collections. Each features the student’s own drawings of selected art, often accompanied with basic historical information. The results form new artworks that invite us to engage with objects that are always on view — or in some cases, the building’s architecture — through new perspectives.

Rosa Chang's indigo shade map of the Metropolitan Museum of Art's galleries (screenshot via indigoshademap.tumblr.com) (click to enlarge)
Rosa Chang’s indigo shade map of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s galleries (screenshot via indigoshademap.tumblr.com) (click to enlarge)

One standout is Rosa Chang’s project, which explores the presence of one specific color throughout the museum’s rooms: indigo. You may find the 200 or so indigo-dyed artifacts she found and carefully sketched on her website, where she also maps, by gallery, the prevalence of the pigment based on plant source. Also explore the objects by their countries of origin on a world map she created, which reveals insights like how the museum has a large number of indigo works from Japan.

Christina Ebert honed in instead on shape — specifically, the various body postures of feminine sculptures in the museum’s South and Southeast Asian art galleries. After identifying seven different poses she observed, she drew and mapped the locations of the representational figures to highlight gesture as another way of approaching this collection. Ebert also organizes these works along a timeline, but it would have been more helpful if she had also linked to their corresponding records on the Met’s own website so viewers may learn more about each one.

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Christina Ebert’s map of sculptures in the museum’s South Asian collection (screenshot via)

Like Ebert, most of the students chose to center on specific rooms. Liz Enright offers an illustrated archive of the objects Japanese galleries, reducing all objects to their basic shapes so clicking on each, which pulls up her more detailed sketches, feels like a discovery. Ella Romero chose to explore the American Wing, focusing on various depictions of nature through design. On her website States of Design, she highlights and illustrates specific objects to show how Frank Lloyd Wright, Louis Comfort Tiffany, and the Herter Brothers had different approaches — what she labels “associative,” “representative,” and “decorative” — to incorporate natural elements into their  furniture and other architectural elements.

Explore the rest of the projects on MAPPING THE MET, where you may tour the museum according to its various water sources through Mary Georgescu’s project; examine the diverse patterns of African textiles by country on Cady Juarez’s website; or have a chance to interact with the objects in Federico da Montefeltro’s famed Gubbio Studiolo with Michelle Nahmad‘s illustrations. Some of these are more playful than strictly educational, but together they highlight the diversity housed within the Met, organized in refreshing and visually delightful schemes.

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Ella Romero’s illustrations of objects in the American Wing (image courtesy the artist)
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Ella Romero’s data visualization of her States of Design project (screenshot via statesofdesign.org/)
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Mary Georgescu’s sketch of the Met’s various water sources (screenshot via mappingthemet.tumblr.com)
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