Friday, October 12, 2012

An iPad app to facilitate visitor-friendly exhibition experiences

The Kimbell Museum had just unveiled a new iPad application, featuring conservation-based information on artworks in its collection. This free app is going to be available on iPad devices that the visitors can borrow and utilize in the various galleries during the major anniversary show, entitled ‘The Kimbell at 40: An Evolving Masterpiece’ in the month of October.

“Conservation is a very important and fascinating thing that we do here. It’s rare to have the opportunity of sharing such kind of behind-the-scenes details with our visitors,” quipped the Museum’s director, Eric M. Lee. “With the app (developed by a Dallas-based company), we can deliver descriptive images, intriguing discoveries and in-depth research difficult to be included in the labels, in a highly innovative format that lets personalized exploration of our collection.”

In addition to the paintings’ restoration by its director of conservation Claire Barry, elaborate technical study has also been done on the works in its collection. For example, when the team examined ‘Christ and the Woman of Samaria’, Guercino’s changes (pentimenti) in the peculiar position of Christ’s hand, noticed through X-radiography, showed characteristic preoccupation of the artist with this significant gesture’s placement.

A wide selection of conservation discoveries have been featured on the iPad app, such as  insights into different artists’ techniques apart from stamps, labels, signatures etc, providing details of an artwork’s history or confirming its attribution. For each featured painting, large, zoomable images are inserted along with the text material that describes the conservation discoveries.

The app features 31 paintings by artists like Caravaggio, Picasso and Monet as well as many recent acquisitions by Bonington, Guercino, Poussin and Michelangelo plus a striking Pre-Angkor sculpture form Cambodia –that of a Hindu god, Harihara. Incidentally, the museum had done a similar experiment for one of its earlier exhibitions, entitled ‘Picasso and Braque: The Cubist Experiment’.

It too incorporated a specially made iPad app for visitors to decipher finer aspects of Cubism, leveraging advances in advanced digital imaging and the unmatched convenience of the device. The idea was to offer newer ways of looking at and understanding the intricate processes, relationships and overall stylistic developments of Analytic Cubism.

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