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Nifty New Online Arts Gizmo


by Jerome Weeks 5 Nov 2008

Yesterday, the San Francisco Museum of Art launched a fun new search engine for more than 3,500 works in its collection. It’s called ArtScope and it’s essentially a magnifying glass-window that the viewer can drag over a huge checkerboard of miniature images, pick out one and enlarge it. The ‘tombstone’ information appears (artist, title of […]

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Yesterday, the San Francisco Museum of Art launched a fun new search engine for more than 3,500 works in its collection. It’s called ArtScope and it’s essentially a magnifying glass-window that the viewer can drag over a huge checkerboard of miniature images, pick out one and enlarge it. The ‘tombstone’ information appears (artist, title of work, date, medium) — and you can click on some of these so the window automatically slides over to find all other ‘salt prints from a paper negative’ (some of the earliest photos around) or any of the 36 works that SFMOMA has by Sol Lewitt.

ArtScope is one way of addressing the online information storage-and-retrieval issues that the Dallas Museum of Art and others now face, as discussed in the Art&Seek feature, The Wired-Up and Wireless Museum. Museums are struggling to get their archives and collections online — while trying to determine just how the public wants to access them, how much data do people need, how can their different ‘levels of engagement’ be addressed. ArtScope is more “search toy” than true “search engine’: It doesn’t offer much in the way of deep information, biographical background, provenance, etc. But for viewers, it does provide a very handy and quite fascinating tool for poring over a museum’s collection and stumbling across connections and influences. It’s actually fun to use.

On the other hand, Tyler Green of Modern Art Notes doesn’t much like SFMOMA’s new website, including the ArtScope:

It’s not all bad: The collection section of the site is a massive improvement over SFMOMA’s old presentation: More works are online and more pictures of more works are online. For example, at the old site not all of SFMOMA’s 30 Clyfford Stills were online. Now they are. SFMOMA does fab-cool online features. SFMOMA’s resources for educators are easy to find.

Still, there’s nothing here that’s both new and interesting.

Photo image by Arnold Layne (it’s not in the SFMOMA collection). It’s at his blog, butterflyeffect.

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  • Too much of museum’s permanent collections are in storage. With todays copying technology, I suggest we copy these works and send them on the road. Keep the originals safe, but display the copies anywhere and everywhere.
    It’s time for the last major art , painting, to join music, literature, and film and be mass produced