ArtScope at SFMOMA

Erin Yu erin.yu at utoronto.ca
Tue May 12 15:01:28 UTC 2009


This is very cool!  Thank you for sharing.


Here is the link to Artscope:
http://www.sfmoma.org/projects/artscope/

and to Hardrock Memorabilia:
http://memorabilia.hardrock.com/


Artscope is reminiscent of my favorite browser plugin for viewing  
images, Cooliris (http://www.cooliris.com/), and the online bookstore  
zoomi (http://zoomii.com/), but without the interactivity with the  
mousewheel and trackpad as Doug points out...


On 12-May-09, at 7:28 AM, John Norman wrote:

> I don't normally appreciate people sending things to lists without  
> checking them out, but I really don't have time right now and if I  
> don't capture it I might lose it. So feel free to ignore if it is  
> not useful:
> John
>
> SFMOMA's ArtScope Offers New Way To Browse Museum Collections
>  by Doug McLean <doug_mclean at tidbits.com>
> At a functional level, visiting an art museum is not so different  
> from going to a Blockbuster video store (considering the rise of  
> Netflix and Internet video, the two probably have similar attendance  
> levels these days). For the most part, the objects in both are  
> collected and categorized. In a movie store you have aisles for  
> Action, Horror, Comedy, and so on. Art museums use similar schemes -  
> wings for Flemish Paintings from the 1600s, Etruscan Sculpture, and  
> Japanese Works on Paper. Even in sections that appear jumbled,  
> there's usually some rhyme or reason - New Releases or Staff  
> Recommendations in the movie store, and Recent Acquisitions or Works  
> from the Rubell Collection in the art museum. The goal of the  
> organizational clarity is similar in both cases - it makes it easy  
> to find what you're looking for, and once you've found whatever that  
> is, to find more of the same.
>
> Most art museums have taken a traditional approach to the  
> development of their online presence, transplanting their real-world  
> organization to the Web. Take, for example, the Metropolitan Museum  
> of Art in New York, whose Web site, while offering a searchable  
> database, focuses on giving each curatorial department its own page.  
> The Web site for the Louvre in Paris has a feature that furthers the  
> effort to preserve the real-world feeling of the museum by enabling  
> users to navigate 3D virtual spaces that replicate its rooms and  
> exhibitions. While there's nothing wrong with maintaining these  
> sorts of groupings, the digitizing of a collection opens the door to  
> many other possibilities. (For some now-historical musings on  
> museums in the digital world, see Brad DeLong's "Ontological  
> Breakdown, or, Pretending to be a Help System," 1995-08-21.)
>
>
> Peering into the ArtScope -- The San Francisco Museum of Modern  
> Art's ArtScope is a great example of an innovative approach to  
> bringing a museum's collection to the Web. ArtScope is a visual  
> browsing tool comprised of a thumbnail grid displaying 3,500 works  
> from the SFMOMA's permanent collection. The grid is zoomable,  
> displaying a lens which can be moved over it to magnify certain  
> areas, enabling users to view hundreds of artworks simultaneously,  
> or just one at a time in close detail.
>
> [View image]
>
> When you launch ArtScope, a set of controls and a search box are  
> visible to the right hand side of the window. The controls help you  
> zoom in and out, or zoom all the way out, though it's easier to  
> double-click inside the lens to zoom in, and to double-click outside  
> the lens to zoom out. You can also grab the grid and drag to move it  
> around, exactly as you can with a map in Google Maps. Unfortunately,  
> ArtScope doesn't support trackpad gestures or the scroll wheel for  
> zooming, and the incremental zooming via double-clicking is tedious.
>
> [View image]
>
> More interestingly, ArtScope also provides a search tool, and below  
> it a pane displaying information about the artwork at the center of  
> the lens (the artwork information is displayed even if you are fully  
> zoomed out). You can type anything into the search field: artist  
> name, title, date, medium, keywords, etc. If any results match your  
> search phrase, ArtScope moves the lens (maintaining the same level  
> of zoom) to the first match. If more than one result exists for your  
> term, a navigation bar displays the number of the result you are  
> currently viewing, the total number of results, and arrow buttons  
> that enable you to jump to the other matches within the grid. It's  
> fun typing in a term like "1970" or "Acrylic on canvas", and then  
> flying around the grid via the arrow keys to view all the results in  
> their scattered locations.
>
>
> Browsing the Hard Rock Memorabilia Collection -- ArtScope finds a  
> kindred spirit in the Hard Rock Cafe's Memorabilia site, which has a  
> similar visual interface, and, in some ways, a better one for  
> browsing through the company's collection of popular music  
> artifacts. The controls and navigation are more along the lines of  
> what I'd like to see brought to ArtScope. The Hard Rock Memorabilia  
> tool has grab-and-drag navigation like SFMOMA's, but with an Apple- 
> like design touch. The drag has a little inertia to it, which gives  
> the navigation a natural and physical feel. That sense of inertia  
> also carries over to the zoom, which supports trackpad and scroll  
> wheel zooming - a much faster and more efficient way to zoom in and  
> out. Zooming in ArtScope magnifies the circumscribed area of the  
> lens, but also magnifies the background to a slightly lesser degree.  
> Visually it's a bit cluttered, and upon using the unified-page-zoom  
> on the Hard Rock site, the lens feels unnecessary.
>
> [View image]
>
> However, ArtScope is resizable and can take advantage of larger  
> screens, while the Hard Rock Memorabilia tool maintains a fixed  
> window size on all monitors. This becomes an issue with the latter's  
> information pane, which, while slick in how it pops up at a certain  
> degree of magnification, takes up prime real estate in the limited  
> window area, occasionally blocking the object you're trying to view.  
> Another strike against Hard Rock's more attractive information pane  
> is that there are instances when you'd want to be able to view the  
> item's information while zoomed out, as you can with ArtScope. Yet  
> the largest problem with the Hard Rock Memorabilia tool is its slow  
> load times. Zooming in almost always results in a blurry pixelated  
> image that takes far too long to resolve into crisp detail. While  
> you can zoom in quite close, the delay ensures you won't bother. In  
> comparison, ArtScope zooms crisply and quickly.
>
> Lastly, unlike ArtScope, the Hard Rock Memorabilia tool lacks any  
> search tool and instead provides categories for breaking the  
> collection into chunks. ArtScope's approach here is far more  
> effective and engaging, since it eliminates the traditional top-down  
> establishment of categories, instead enabling users to create their  
> own collections via the search tool.
>
>
> Rethinking the Online Museum -- Despite my gripes about ArtScope's  
> zooming, I still think it's a brilliant step toward answering the  
> question of how museums can offer an online experience that goes  
> beyond what's possible in the physical world. Nothing can replace  
> the experience of seeing art in person, but since many people will  
> never have the opportunity to stand face to face with even the most  
> significant works of art, it's essential that we explore different  
> ways of viewing these things on a computer screen. ArtScope  
> encourages wandering, free associations, odd connections, and a  
> playful engagement with a group of objects often perceived to be  
> weighty and untouchable. The virtual Prado Museum in Google Earth  
> offers another approach, though one that lends itself more to deep  
> exploration of a very few works rather than any sort of synthesis of  
> an entire museum's collection (see "Google Earth's Virtual Prado  
> Museum," 2009-01-28).
>
> In sum, ArtScope produces an experience you simply cannot achieve in  
> a physical setting, and proposes a new model for looking at art. It  
> seizes upon the scalability of digital reproduction to enable new  
> juxtapositions - a large sarcophagus and a tiny drawing can be  
> viewed as identically sized images side by side, and we can sift  
> through a collection almost as though we're thumbing through a deck  
> of cards. I applaud the SFMOMA for approaching their Web site with a  
> sense of inventiveness, and hope to see more museums consider their  
> relationship to the Internet with an appreciation for what the  
> digital dimension can offer, and for what possibilities remain  
> unexplored.
>
>
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