The Met’s Digital Conversion

Midterms have been upon us for the last few weeks, and sometimes you just realize that your head is on backwards during those times. Two days before my 5 page comparison paper between two objects at the Metropolitan Museum, I realized that not only had none of my pictures turned out well enough to find them reliable, but my notes had mysterious vanished into the abyss of my desk.

I freaked out, much to the amusement of my roommate who decided to watch with a grin for a few minutes before asking why I didn’t just look up the objects on the Met website.

As a way of turning their collection “inside out,” the Metropolitan Museum has been working on putting objects on display virtually. Although in this way, you aren’t able to actually pick up the object and view it from all angles, it gives the general public the ability to zoom up as close as they want on the object in dramatic detail.

Although I’m not the biggest advocate of putting technology absolutely everywhere possible, and think that museums need to think long and hard about their collections and audiences before making drastic changes, I think the Met’s digital conversion is an amazing step in the right direction of intertwining the past, present and future museum experiences. Now viewers from around the world are able to connect with art in a way that they were not able to previously, all from the comforts of their own home. The objects do not risk being damaged through being viewed digitally by thousands of people. And honestly, it’s just plain fun. I can just imagine the hours that could be spent by our tech-savvy youth zooming in reallyreallyreally close and then back out again, seeing every detail in the photo.

On top of the photo aspect, each of the objects’ information, provenance and descriptions are available. That way, the viewer is able to get a full museum experience and gain deeper knowledge about the object which may not be made as available in person.

Kadie Yale

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2 responses to “The Met’s Digital Conversion

  1. Kadie, I share you feelings about the accessibility of the Met’s collections online. Although it’s nothing like seeing the object in person (and if you’re lucky, handling the object), the ability to browse objects both on display and not on display with all their information can sometimes provide you with more background than a brief tombstone in the gallery that hasn’t been updated recently. Especially for an institution that has such a rich and diverse collection (most of it not on display), online access is an incredible resource for academics, collectors, and the general public. Displaying collections online is an ideal way of sharing information beyond the physical limitations of gallery space.

    Megan

  2. Kadie,
    I also enjoyed your post! I was talking to a woman that works as a collections manager at the Met the other day and it was really interesting to hear the “tension” that the website has created in the Museum. While the younger generations really encourage all the curators to place information online, the older generations who have been working in the Met for decades, hate the fact that all the objects are going online. They see it as an “easy way out” and no one has to visit the Museum to see the objects. I find it so interesting that the technology issue is not only one of museum-interest in general, but more so a generational issue.
    I like the Met’s set-up. They give a good amount of information for the works online, just enough to (in my opinion) draw the viewer into the Museum. By providing multiple high-quality images, it gives the viewer a preview of how amazing the real work actually is. Of course, I would always choose real over virtual, but in those times when the real is not accessible, I truly appreciate the steps made in bettering museum websites.

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