Friday, April 26, 2013

working the wall

The Cleveland Museum of Art has been inundated with praise for its digital innovations. We drove up there to check out its prime exhibit - The Wall. This is not some cheesey Pink Floyd rehabilitation (although Cleveland does happen to be the home of the Rock and Roll Hall ofFame) but a significant advance in how to add a digital dimension to an art audience experience. And it’s impressive. It makes you feel a bit like Tom Cruise in Minority Report. Back in 2002 when he manipulated data and images with a flick of the wrist it felt like science fiction. No more. The Wall is just like that. You can theme, you can choose, you can share your selections. At its most spectacular The Wall shows thousands of small images of every object in the Museum's collection. Touch one and it expands to give you more info, connections to similar objects in the collection, ways to make your tour for others to share. You can also rent an iPad (five bucks) to locate yourself in the galleries, tell you what's close to you, give more info, tell stories, email your photos. In some ways it's art education on speed with images and info zapping past as you figure out the system, but it lacks the attitude and personality of MoNA's O. As nothing is going to stop this born again museum education fever though, get used to it.  A huge upside at Cleveland is that because they are presenting so many images digitally themselves, you using your own phone and camera is just fine. You can see a short clip of the wall in action here.
Images: top, Cleveland's digitised collection on view. Middle, visitors selecting their favourites. Bottom, using the iPad to locate, expand and photo works in the galleries.