The NGV has announced a three-year creative partnership with Telstra, which promises ‘creativity and innovation in a digital world’. It would be nice to have some more solid detail about exactly what the partnership hopes to achieve, beyond the statements in the press release, which include things like ‘reaching out’, ‘unlocking potential’, and ‘to revolutionise the gallery experience’ (does it need to be revolutionised?) But, there is certainly much the NGV could do digitally so here is what I hope it means.
1. Digitisation and online access to the entire collection
Ideally the entire NGV collection (or a substantial amount of it) would be made available online with high quality images and relevant information about each work. The NGV already has a large number of works available via their website but the search is very basic (keyword only and no way to refine results and it seems to return the same number of records for any keyword). In addition the records for each work offer only very limited information (just a basic caption), and the works cannot be enlarged much or zoomed in on. Hopefully we might see a new interface that is user-friendly and recognises that different people want to interact in different ways with the online collections. A good model is the Rijksmuseum, which does a good job of catering to the needs of art historians and other researchers (who want to be able to zoom in on details and to access a decent catalogue entry with all the essential information in it). At the same time the Rijksmuseum also caters to,a nd actively encourages, people wanting to browse themes or artists in a more general way, or who are looking for visual inspiration for a creative project, rather than a scholarly one.
Other museums that do this well include the Met where visitors can choose between browsing through highlights and new acquisitions, reading about the artwork of the day, or, conducting a more advanced search with options to refine results by artist, culture, time period, material, or geographical location.
2. Digitising publications
It would be great to be able to download digital versions of past exhibition catalogues and other publications. The NGV has already made the entire back catalogue of the Art Journal of the National Gallery of Victoria available online with open access (NB this was one of the most popular pieces of news I ever posted, which says something about people’s desire to have online open access to quality art writing).
3. Open Access and Copyright
This might seem like a dry point for an exciting creative partnership but it would be great if the NGV considered a liberal approach to copyright, perhaps similar to that of the Rijksmuseum. The director Wim Pijbes recently summed this up well in a statement published in Apollo – ‘If we want to attract a younger and new audience, it’s not enough to offer a small selection of poor-resolution images. Everyone understands that open access is the future, especially for artworks that belong to the world as part of public collections in museums. And access means publishing collections to the highest standards, technically as well as aesthetically.’
4. Online Publishing and Resources
As well as publishing the collection online it would also be good to see some high quality digital resources of other kinds. The Met has its timeline of art history, which was originally published fifteenth years ago! The other standout for me is the Getty, which published a huge range of articles, videos and other resources via The Getty Iris. Articles range from light-hearted to serious and cover topics such as conservation, archives, curatorship, installation of exhibitions, detailed articles on specific works of art, to articles that begin discussions on broader topics such as the digital humanities, art education and so on. The Getty also uses this online space to host live discussions, twitter chats and so on.
The NGV has published some interesting blogs, such as Carl Villis’s excellent Poussin Project, which let us follow his restoration of Poussin’s Crossing of the Red Sea. It would be great to see more of these detailed write-ups as well perhaps video or podcasts that highlight the different works in the permanent collection, perhaps along the lines of the Met’s beautifully composed 82nd and fifth videos in which curators talk about one work from the collection for about three to five minutes and provide insights on both well-known works, such as Xavier Salomon on Tiepolo, as well as those that are often unseen, such as this one by Doug Ekland on an early twentieth-century photo scrapbook put together by a boy trying to define his ideal woman.
Those are my initial thoughts, I welcome comments about what other people would like to see emerge as the gallery ‘unlocks the potential of digital technology and the arts.’
– Katrina Grant
Press release below
A major three-year creative partnership between the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) and Telstra was announced by NGV Director Tony Ellwood and Telstra Chief Financial Officer and Group Executive International, Andrew Penn, today.
Inspired by a shared interest in creativity and innovation in a digital world, the partnership will explore initiatives that bring art and technology together, for the benefit of audiences both in Australia and around the globe.
Director of the NGV Tony Ellwood said, “Over the next three years the NGV and Telstra will join to unlock the potential of digital technology and the arts. With Telstra’s support and technological expertise, we seek to explore the bounds of what is possible, and to transform the way people engage with art and with the Gallery…no matter who, or where you are.”
Mr Ellwood added, “Multimedia technology is a fundamental tool for expanding future audiences. We believe the NGV’s collection, programs and resources are valuable to all Australians and aspire to increasing our reach across Australia. Our ambitious collaboration with Telstra will transform the way we connect with the Australian and global community.”
The partnership is one of the most significant in the NGV’s history. Mr Ellwood said,“What we have announced today is substantial in terms of size but also in terms of the style of partnership. This is a creative partnership in every sense, where we will work closely with the team at Telstra to harness our collective skills and to deliver innovative and engaging experiences for our audiences.”
Telstra Chief Financial Officer and Group Executive International Andrew Penn said the partnership presents an exciting opportunity to revolutionise the gallery experience to reach new audiences.
“Like art, technology has the power to connect audiences and enable stories to be shared. Through the use of innovative technology our shared goal is to create interactive experiences for audiences right across the world that will allow them to engage with NGV’s incredibly rich collection of works irrespective of their geographical location,” said Mr Penn.
The partnership reinforces the NGV and Telstra’s commitment to the arts on a national level. New initiatives will transform the way the NGV reaches and shares art with audiences both within and beyond the gallery spaces to increase access to the NGV’s world-class collection.