Meeting Notes for October 31, 1996

Subject: New Media - PDAs in the Bancroft Library

Attendees: Lark Dunham, Sandra Doi, John Dick, Shailen Mistry

The Bancroft Art Museum is currently conducting an experiment in New Media. It is the beta-test site for the use of Newton Personal Digital Assistants (PDA) as electronic docents. Our intrepid group members checked it out, and the overall feeling was that the Newton enhanced the art viewing experience. Here are some observations:


From just a practical standpoint, the Newton experience was an interesting but limited first gander at a new use of the PDA technology. Notably, there were flaws in the execution:

But overall, we could all see the possibilities that this new medium presented. What if you could use the Newton to download other works by the artist. Or download other artist's representation of the subject. If the Newton were wirelessly linked to a museum server, all manner of information could be downloaded. What if you could access live links to other museums. The possiblities abound....


Another issues raised was how the use of new media will change the role of museums and schools. Will people still go to museums when you can see the image on the Web? Here are some bullet-pointed observations:

Most of us have had the experience of going to a museum to see a famous painting and thinking, "oh, there it is..." and moving on to the next famous work. For the vast majority of the museum going population, new media will enhance the museum experience. And as for availabiltiy of images on the Web, we feel there is not much more threat than that of coffee table art books or postcards. Availablitiy enhances demand for the "real thing."

In particular, modern art is not recreatable on the Web. Modern art is often experience based, where the individual is an integral part of the exhibit. Shailen gave the example of the block of oil exhibit at the LA Museum of Modern Art. The oil presented such a smooth and flawless surface, that observers often touched the exhibit-- only to come away with oily hands. The only way to tell that it was a liquid was by blowing on the surface.

So, will Web access to art cannibalize interest in attending museums. We think not.


We see the following benefits to Web access to art:

Created by Sandra Doi on 11/12/96

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