Up Close and Personal: Art Museums and Digital Models
Beth Fischer, Postdoctoral Fellow in Digital Humanities, Williams College
Amber Orosco, MA candidate, Art History Graduate Intern, Williams College
Liz Gallerani, Curator of Mellon Academic Programs, Williams College
Moderated by Austin Mason, Assistant Director for Digital Humanities & Director of Digital Arts & Humanities, Carleton College
How do you bring digital imaging, including RTI (reflectance transformation imaging) and photogrammetry, to students in a liberal arts environment? How do digital models enhance and not replace in-person learning with art?
This panel presents strategies for digital imaging that focus on digital accessibility, equity, agency, and liberal arts learning.
In fall 2020, the Williams College Museum of Art launched a minimal-budget imaging project that initially responded to concerns about equity for hybrid and remote learning. This panel presents strategies for digital imaging that focus on digital accessibility, equity, agency, and liberal arts learning. The pilot program at the Williams College Museum of Art aims to make objects more engaging in a time of distance, while remaining attentive to data bias and trying to highlight under-used objects. Goals of the project include increasing comfort level with objects and digital models, and also encouraging agency, exploration, and play.
By sharing our own iterations throughout this ongoing project, we offer a range of possibilities to participants who may wish to explore similar methods and applications. Working with limited staff and resources, we focused on individual strengths and perspectives–Liz with the collection, teaching, and relationships with faculty across campus; Beth with digital humanities, teaching, and entry-level digital technologies; Amber with prior experience using RTI and perspective as a graduate student who is both learning from and teaching with models. Amber is the Academic Programs Intern at the museum, and is also the Teaching Assistant in a studio course that is a key collaborator in this project.
We intentionally select objects from a diverse range of makers and cultures, and use information gleaned from the models to improve our representation of objects and their contexts, and even to decolonize the collection. We focus on objects where the catalog data is limited. By employing multiple imaging techniques for the same object, we provide different types of information and invite consideration of what each model can tell us, and how that differs from what the physical object can tell us in person.
Especially for objects that are on display with limited visibility and those that are too delicate to handle, digital models and techniques offer an opportunity for students and other users to manipulate an object on their own terms, nurturing agency and a sense of play. A goal of the project is to teach students how to create their own models, as a way to encourage close looking and exploration of art.