Conference Agenda

Session Overview
#SL4: Digital Humanities and the Art Museum Roundtable
Friday, 26/Jul/2019:
2:50pm - 3:50pm

Session Chair: Benjamin Zweig
Location: Salon 2 & 3, Grand Ballroom, Marriott City Center
capacity 108


Digital Humanities and the Art Museum: Perspectives, Challenges, and Opportunities

Benjamin Zweig1, Ellen Prokop2, David Newbury3, Jane Alexander4

1National Gallery of Art, United States of America; 2Frick Art Reference Library; 3J. Paul Getty Trust; 4Cleveland Museum of Art

It is widely accepted among museum staff, from directors to docents, that a deep engagement with digital initiatives is crucial for American cultural heritage institutions to maintain their contemporary relevance and actively participate in society. However, there are diverse practices both between and within museums in regards to how investment in digital infrastructure, outreach, and research can be effectively deployed. In response to these problems, this proposed one-hour roundtable seeks to generate a conversation about how both digitization and computational methods are transforming art museums and public galleries.

The panel will consist of representatives leading major digital initiatives at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, the Frick Collection, the J. Paul Getty Trust, and the Cleveland Museum of Art. With the intention of generating a lively and audience-focused debate and discussion, this roundtable will explore the opportunities and challenges art museums face when balancing the needs and interests of internal and external constituencies in regards to digital practices.

The roundtable will focus on a few key practical and ethical, rather than technical, considerations, including: How is digital research undertaken at museums valued differently than that undertaken at universities? How are museums (or how are they not) encouraging, supporting, and disseminating digital art history methods and practices? Similarly, what can museums do to transform their holdings into usable data for computational research? Like universities, would art museums benefit from having centralized centers or labs for digital experimentation? How might technologies such as machine vision learning affect how art museums collect, organize, and disseminate their holdings? What are the benefits or drawbacks of museum collaboration with non-traditional cultural heritage and Open GLAM partners, such as the Wikimedia Foundation or Google? What efforts should be made by museum digitization efforts to raise the profile of underrepresented artists and subjects and to engage with underrepresented communities?

What we hope to achieve through this roundtable discussion are strategies for dealing with the multiple tensions inherent when introducing the digital into the art museum ecosystem. We further want to push the discussion beyond the notion of art museums as creators of digitized repositories upon which “real” digital humanities scholarship is produced. Instead, the art museum – with its dual focus on serving both specialized research interests and public engagement, combined with its role in creating and maintaining knowledge bases – can serve as a uniquely generative space for advances in the digital humanities.