Carnegie Museum of Art

  • Lina Bo Bardi (1914–1992), Design for museum ramp adaptation, Bahia Cinema Club, MAM-BA (Bahia Museum of Modern Art), Salvador, Brazil, 1960. Instituto Bardi/Casa de vidro, São Paulo

     

    An architect draws: Zeuler Lima on Lina Bo Bardi

    Authors: Paula Kupfer and Paulina Pardo Gaviria

    PhD Students in History of Art and Architecture

    On Saturday, January 18, scholar Zeuler Lima offered reflections on the legacy of Italian-born architect Lina Bo Bardi (1914–92), in particular on the importance that drawing held in her practice. Bo Bardi, who emigrated to São Paulo with her husband Pietro Maria Bardi in 1946, is best known today for her architectural designs for the Museum of Art of São Paulo and SESC Pompeia, a popular cultural center and sports complex, also in São Paulo. The current exhibition at CMOA, Lina Bo Bardi Draws, curated by Lima, includes a comprehensive timeline of Bo Bardi’s architectural projects and showcases close to one hundred drawings.

    As Lima’s approachable presentation made clear, drawing was an instrumental medium for Bo Bardi from an early age and throughout her life. She sketched city scenes, was drawn to botanical motifs, and left behind drafts of unbuilt structures on paper. She also used this medium to reflect on architectural practice as a whole.  For instance, in the drawing La cámara dell’architetto (The Architect’s Room, 1943), Bo Bardi represented examples of architectural styles spanning centuries, including classical Greek temple designs inhabiting the same modern room with a miniature version of Villa Savoye, Le Corbusier's quintessential modernist house. Her interest in sketching botanical elements, which initially offered a respite from the daily experience of a Rome in ruins during fascism, would manifest strongly in her interest in organic architecture beginning in the late 1950s, which she pursued after settling in Brazil. 

    In addition to her work on paper, in his presentation Lima highlighted Bo Bardi’s important work with periodical publications. In the early 1940s, Lina Bo lived in Milan, where she collaborated with architect Carlo Pagani and edited the Italian design magazine Domus; during these years she further developed her concerns with domesticity, nature, and vernacular and industrial design. Years later, after becoming an established architect and exhibition designer in São Paulo, Bo Bardi founded the arts and architecture magazine Habitat. This platform allowed her to disseminate her work, engage in international discussions about modernist architecture and its connections to art, and further develop her interests for graphic design and illustration.

    During his presentation, Lima reflected on Bo Bardi’s training as an architect, which given the constrictions on the practical application of construction in 1940s Italy focused on intellectual debates and design strategies. Lima’s assertion that Bo Bardi was a “generous humanist who saw architecture as a field of relations” is evident in the drawings included in the CMOA exhibition, most of which feature people, plants, and daily objects inhabiting the designed spaces. The richness of the material curated by Lima suggests that for Bo Bardi drawing was not only a vehicle for architecture design but the ideal medium to wonder about the multiple ways we move in space.

    Seeing nearly one hundred drawings of Bo Bardi is a rare opportunity that should not be missed. Greater emphasis throughout the exhibition and in Lima’s talk on Bo Bardi’s achievements and the relevance of her contributions––in architecture and exhibition design, as well as publishing periodicals for international circulation––would have better situated the role that these drawings played in Bo Bardi’s creative and professional practice. Her engagement with a specific place and with the social relevance of the built environment was nonetheless transmitted to Lima’s audience, both in his presentation and the exhibition in the Heinz Architectural Center on the second floor of CMOA.

    Categories: 
    • Graduate Work
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh

    Fig1. Margarat Honda. Frog, 2019. Multimedia. Carnegie Museum of Art

     

    Belly Up: or, A Journey Through The History of Art In the Shape of a Frog

    Author: Christopher Nygren

    Assistant Professor of History of Art and Architecture and Director, Medieval and Renaissance Studies Program

    In September 2019, the Carnegie Museum of Art installed a new work in the Forum Gallery: Frog is a five-foot long sculpture of a frog that Margaret Honda created in collaboration with Hollywood propmakers (fig.1). 

    The scale of the work is jarring and the positioning of the frog, which lays on the ground belly up, is disarming. In the animal kingdom, the belly-up position is rarely a good sign. If you linger in the Forum Gallery for any length of time, you’ll inevitably hear visitors whispering to one another, “Is this frog dead?”

    Many other aspects of this frog are also subject to inquiry. If one looks at the sculpture long enough and compares it to photos of the European common frog (Rana temporaria), which is the species of frog closest to this sculpted invention, they will realize that there are a number of important divergences between Honda’s sculpture and real-world frog (the number of digits on the forelegs, for instance) (fig.2).

    These are not “errors”; rather, they are hold-overs from Honda’s font of inspiration for this curious and playful sculpture, which is a painting by the Renaissance painter Bramantino (1465-1530) held in the Ambrosiana collection in Milan (fig.3). 

    Like most pre-modern works of art, the museum has given the painting a descriptive title: The Madonna Enthroned with Saint Ambrose and Saint Michael. However, this overlooks the most surprising element of the painting, which is the gigantic frog that lays on back in the lower right-hand corner of the picture space (fig.4).

    As a specialist of Italian Renaissance art, I know much more about paintings like Bramantino’s than I do about contemporary sculpture. Even so, the Carnegie Museum of Art invited me to participate in a public conversation about Honda’s new work. This event was an experimental format that was dubbed “A Conversational Dissection,” and it brought me together in conversation with Jennifer Sheridan, Curator of Amphibians and Reptiles at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, and Hannah Turpin, Curatorial Assistant for Modern and Contemporary Art and Photography at the CMOA. Each of us presented for about 10 minutes, and our mandate was simply to bring our expertise to bear on Honda’s sculpture in a way that might enrich our understanding of the sculpture. Dr. Sheridan gave a very informative and rollickingly entertaining introduction to the biology of frogs. She introduced the audience to, among other things, the idea of “snout-vent length” that biologist use to measure frogs. Biologists have aggregated millions of data points to produce charts that show the link between a frog’s weight and its snout-vent length. Dr. Sheridan was able to extrapolate from these charts that, if it were to exist in the real world, Honda’s frog would with more than 900 pounds. 

    My presentation focused on the depiction of frogs in the history of art (mostly Western). I had never given any thought to frogs in art prior to the invitation from the CMOA, but as soon as I began looking for frogs, I started to find them everywhere. Of course, the “Plague of Frogs” is one of the curses that Moses brought down on Egypt in an effort to free the Jewish people from their captivity under Pharaoh (Exodus 8:4-5), and therefore I was able to find many depictions of frogs in illuminated manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible, such as this Old English Hexateuch from the 11th century or the Morgan Picture Bible (fig.5 and fig.6).

    I’m especially fond of the illustration of this scene in a Hebrew manuscript known as the Golden Haggadah, which is a fascinating book about which I’d encourage everyone to read more (fig.7).

    My presentation, though, focused mostly on the oddity of having a frog as an attribute of St. Michael. St. Michael is mentioned both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. In the Book of Revelation, it is said that he will defeat Satan. In the Renaissance, this was usually figured by having St. Michael defeat some sort of person/serpent hybrid, as can be seen in this painting by Carlo Crivelli (fig.8).

    Looking at Crivelli’s painting, one can certainly see some similarities with Bramantino’s frog. However, Crivelli’s demon is clearly humanoid. Exactly how Bramantino decided to swap out this satanic demon with a frog is unknown. But about 20 years before Bramantino painted his altarpiece, Hieronymus Bosch had begun to infuse frogs with demonic connotations, as one can see in his altarpiece of the Temptations of St. Anthony, in which the hermit saint is taken on a terrifying flight on the belly of a frog (fig.9 and fig.10).

    It is unlikely that Bramantino knew Bosch’s painting and the story of the Plague of the Frogs from Exodus already suggests that frogs might have already been thought of as a demonic sign. Thus, it seems like Bramatino was simply using this logical chain of inference as his point of departure: frogs are associated with the demonic and therefore it makes sense that St. Michael might be pictured with a frog. What he produced was an utterly unexpected image, and the history of that image now included Honda’s sculpture, which is an equally surprising and jarring image. Understanding how Margaret Honda found inspiration for her sculpture in the oddity of a Renaissance painting offers perspective on how creativity and inspiration operate: Honda’s frog is as Renaissance as it is modern, and in that it offers a beautiful commentary on a topic that is dear to our department, which is how works of art manage to occupy multiple and diverse temporalities.

    Categories: 
    • Faculty Work
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh
  • Standing in the CMOA Library with copies of the printed catalogues of past Carnegie International exhibitions (1896-present)

     

    Women and the Carnegie International

    Museum Studies Intern at the Carnegie Museum of Art – Fall 2019

    Women have historically been excluded from museums and positions of power in institutions. Even today, there are countless initiatives to exhibit more women artists in museums. However, looking specifically at the early history of the Carnegie International exhibitions, women were much more included than might be expected for the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. My internship centered around digitizing catalogs of the paintings featured in past Carnegie International exhibitions. I was surprised to learn that several female artists’ paintings were accepted in the first Carnegie International in 1896The first few exhibitions featured a handful of women, but as the years went by more and more women had their paintings included in the Carnegie International.

    As a part of Pitt’s Fall 2018 class "Inside the Carnegie," my classmates and I had the opportunity to meet with some of the artists included in the 57th Carnegie International as well as the curator of the exhibition, Ingrid Schaffner. Having an inside look behind the making of the exhibition truly helped me to appreciate the amount of meticulous work that goes into curating an exhibition of that size. Not only was it insightful to meet with Schaffner, it was also so thrilling to see a woman curating an exhibition as prolific as the Carnegie International. Looking holistically from the first International to the most recent, there is a consistent pattern in female inclusion. The progression from a few women being showcased in 1896 to a woman curating the entire exhibition shows the growth of the Carnegie Museum and the promise for more women involved in the arts in Pittsburgh.

    My experience interning with Akemi May, Assistant Curator of Fine Arts and Decorative Arts, and Emily Mirales, Curatorial Assistant of Fine Arts, at the Carnegie Museum of Art, was eye-opening to say the least. I have gained many skills from my experience interning at the CMOA. I honed my communication skills by being able to effectively relay my progress in digitizing records. Additionally, I had to be independent as I was responsible for my own progress through the exhibition records. Interning in the Carnegie Museum of Art has taught me to understand the history and appreciate the efforts women have made in the art world.

    Categories: 
    • Academic Interns
    • Undergraduate Work
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh
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    Students Explore Museum Careers at Welcome Week

    Author: Alex J. Taylor 

    Assistant Professor and Academic Curator, Department of History of Art and Architecture

    As part DiscoverU Day, sponsored by the Career Center as a part of Welcome Week at the University of Pittsburgh, 20 first year students signed up to hear about the career opportunities to work in museums from a panel of staff from across the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh. This was the first year that the Carnegie Museums participated in the program. After lunch in the William Penn Union, students made their way to the Carnegie Museum boardroom to hear how employees from a range of departments made their way from undergraduate study to a museum career. Organized by Grace Anderson and Renee Thomas from the museum’s volunteer office, the students heard from staff across the Oakland museums including Juliana Carlino, Manager of Admissions; Matt Lamanna, Associate of Curator of Vertibrate Paeleoltology, CMNH; Natalie Larson-Potts, Associate Curator of Education, CMOA; Laura Zorch, Manager of Social Engagement, CMOA; and Pitt alumni Valerie Bundy, Education Program Manager, CMOA, and Mandi Lyon, Interim Program Manager for Schools and Groups, CMNH.

    Find out more about the other organizations and businesses participating in DiscoverU Day here

    Categories: 
    • Faculty Work
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh
  • Sound shirt showcased at the Access+Ability exhibition at CMOA

     

    Access+Ability: A Vital and Inspiring Exhibition at the Carnegie Museum of Art

    Author: Thomas J. Morton

    Senior Lecturer, Architectural Studies Program, History of Art and Architecture

    As the world continues to refine its thinking on accessibility – perhaps most importantly by expanding the general concept of accessibility – the Carnegie Museum of Art hosted a provocative and timely exhibition, Access+Ability (1 June – 8 September 2019), that showcased dozens of products and designs that are expanding access and ability for many people around the world.

    Organized into four large sections: ‘Moving,’ ‘Connecting,’ Navigating the Environment,’ and ‘Living,’ the exhibition highlighted some of the recent products and designs that have sought to great expand access and ability for many. Some of these were to be expected, e.g. better designed walking canes, while others, such as the Soundshirt, which “translates the experience of listening into a physical and sensory experience for people who are deaf or hard of hearing,” were completely new and stunning in their creativity. Wonderfully, within each of these sections there were plenty of objects and displays that encouraged active engagement with the visitor. For example, one could touch the handles of new canes, try out the new flatware, and play with Uno cards that were redesigned for those who are colorblind. In addition, there was a display monitor and program entitled, “I wonder what it is like to be dyslexic.” Each of the four sections did not try to be exhaustive in terms of the objects and designs on display; rather, a tremendous breadth of items was on display. They ranged in scale from the fabulous DotWatch (2017) with its Braille displays for time functions and receiving text messages to inclusive playgrounds such as the Magical Bridge Playground (Palo Alto, CA, 2015).

    Each time that I visited the exhibition, I was pleased by the audible gasps of the museumgoers and to hear frequent exclamations such as, “That is pretty brilliant,” and “This is so freaking cool.” The designs on display are awe inspiring, and as it was noted in the wall text: digital technology has completely transformed communication in our lifetime, and people with disabilities have benefitted greatly from these new digital communication tools. These individuals drive innovation, and these new designs are greatly expanding access and ability for many. 

    Although the majority of this exhibition’s run has occurred while most classes were on summer break, its final weeks have provided a brief window for students of all ages to engage with the show. I hope that Pitt faculty members in various disciplines might still encourage students to use the exhibit for class visits, assignments, and projects before the exhibition closes on September 8. 

    As a side note, I am sure this exhibition will have encouraged the Carnegie Museums to reflect on its own accessibility challenges. It was not lost on the observer that docents had to stand at the entrance doors to the exhibit – an exhibit on accessibility – since there are no blue push pads to activate automatic doors for those with limited mobility. As is equally true of our own Frick Fine Arts Building, the accessibility problems of historic architecture remain an urgent issue for public institutions of all kinds. 

    Lastly, one cannot review an exhibition without a few words on the related items in the museum store. The exhibition highlighted products and research, and accordingly, design objects and books with research were for sale in the museum store. I applaud the museum store staff for having affordable objects that would appeal to a range of ages (e.g. Braille math blocks for children and compression socks for adults) and darn good and relatively inexpensive books. Graham Pullin’s book, Design Meets Disability (MIT Press, 2009) and Matthias Hollwich with Bruce Mau Design’s New Aging (Penguin, 2016) stand out among the books; the latter being a particularly enjoyable book to read. 

    Overall, this was a thoroughly enjoyable and inspiring exhibition. Initially organized and exhibited by the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in 2018, the CMOA exhibition was curated by Rachel Delphia, the Alan G. and Jane A. Lehman Curator of Decorative Arts and Design. I applaud her and the museum for bringing such an important exhibition to Pittsburgh and would strongly support the curation of similar exhibitions at the CMOA. As a recent transplant to Pittsburgh, I can state without a doubt that this has been my favorite exhibition at the CMOA.

    Categories: 
    • Faculty Work
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh
  • Presenting my research to the Education Department staff at the end of the semester

     

    Finding “Museum Joy” at the 57th Carnegie International

    Museum Studies Intern at the Carnegie Museum of Art – Spring 2019

    "The whole room is filled with joy!” was just one of thousands of comments made by visitors to the Carnegie Museum of Art’s 57th Carnegie International. As an intern at the museum this semester, I was tasked with reading and analyzing these comments as reported by Gallery Ambassadors, who were present in the museum’s galleries to provide clarification and conversation for museum visitors. Evaluating these comments gave me a better understanding of how visitors’ experiences reflected engagement with the artwork, education, and positive change.

    The artists whose work I focused on most closely were Alex da Corte, Art Labor, Jessi Reaves, Post Commodity, and Tacita Dean. Each of these exhibits provided museum visitors with the opportunity to immerse themselves in artwork: one visitor to Alex Da Corte’s Rubber Pencil Devil stated that they “like[d] it because you really get drawn into it,” and another expressed that “I needed to get lost in some art today, and this did that for me.” Other works, especially Art Labor’s, enabled visitors to learn something new: few visitors were familiar with Vietnamese coffee culture, and more than one visitor stated that they “had no idea Vietnam had such a huge coffee industry.” Visitors to Jessi Reaves’ works expressed joy at being able to touch and sit on the art, and many who experienced local jazz musicians interpreting Post Commodity’s work had not previously seen art and music combined. Finally, much of the artwork sparked emotion in visitors, with many feeling nostalgic from Alex da Corte’s references to Mr. Rogers and others recalling their own experiences in Vietnam after experiencing Art Labor’s Vietnamese hammock cafè. While certain visitor comments reflected frustration with the exhibition’s use of The Guide instead of wall labels, and others revealed hesitation to engage with contemporary art, the vast majority of visitors seemed to like this year’s International better than any other exhibition they had experienced previously. Above all, these visitor comments serve demonstrate that the Carnegie International succeeded in embodying curator Ingrid Schaffner’s vision of sparking “museum joy” in the exhibition’s visitors.

    Prior to completing this internship, I had considered pursuing a career in museum education. Now, I’m more confident that this is the right career path for me, and I have a better understanding of how art can be used to inspire education and engagement for a wide range of museum visitors.

    Categories: 
    • Academic Interns
    • Undergraduate Work
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh

    Annie Abernathy visiting Kahlil Robert Irving’s sculpture in Paintings Storage at the Carnegie Museum of Art

     

    Visualizing Research at the Carnegie Museum of Art

    Museum Studies Intern at the Carnegie Museum of Art – Spring 2019

    The visual is always an art historian’s first resource, and it is difficult to understand an artist’s practice without seeing their artwork firsthand. However, this semester, I researched thirty artists, basing much of my understanding on written source material alone. 

    In my internship at the Carnegie Museum of Art this spring, I conducted preliminary research for an upcoming exhibition concerning art and economic inequality. I had the privilege of working with Eric Crosby, Acting Co-Director and Senior Curator of Modern & Contemporary Art, and Hannah Turpin, curatorial assistant for Modern and Contemporary Art and Photography. In my research, I found many descriptions of artist’s work and photographs, but these can’t compare with seeing the work in person. With every review of an artist’s gallery show, I became frustrated that I didn’t have the same personal experience of the work. This pattern became especially disheartening with sculptures.

    Kahlil Robert Irving was a turning point in the semester. He is a sculptor who uses clay to think about black identity and the history of ceramics. He uses molds of nineteenth-century forms to reference European fetishization of porcelain. Next to these vases, he piles ceramic fast-food containers, soda bottles, and newspapers. In reading about his artistic practice, I felt that I needed to view one of his intricate sculptures in the round to get a sense of its layers of meaning. This time, I got lucky. The Carnegie Museum of Art had recently acquired a work by Kahlil Robert Irving, and I had the incredibly special opportunity to visit it as part of my research. 

    Rachel Delphia, the curator of Decorative Arts & Design, and Elizabeth Tufts-Brown, one of the museum’s registrars, took me to see the sculpture in Painting Storage. In my research before this visit, I was able to get an overall sense of what his sculptures were like, but in person, I saw the fine cracks in the porcelain and the shimmer of the glaze. I was also able to gain a better understanding of his process of making these art pieces as Rachel Delphia explained to me the different firing temperatures of the clay and the technique that Irving used to transfer photographic elements onto the sculpture. 

    Because of this visit to storage, I was able to better describe Irving’s artistic practice. It also made me more aware of the challenging process of exhibition-making and research. Oftentimes, you don’t necessarily have access to a work of art when making curatorial decisions, so when you do, it makes you that much more aware of the physical and material demands of art. In storage, the objectness of the art is more clear, separated from its vulnerability and timelessness in a gallery space-- making visible the multiple iterations of art as it moves from space to space.

    Categories: 
    • Academic Interns
    • Undergraduate Work
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh
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    Interactive Art: A gateway to the Abstract

    Museum Studies intern at Carnegie Museum of Art – Fall 2018

    This fall I’ve had the privilege of working under Marilyn Russell, the Curator of Education at the Carnegie Museum of Art, and Sally Cao, the Curatorial and Education Program Manager, during the Carnegie International 2018. I was tasked with analyzing and attempting to quantify Gallery ambassador surveys from the exhibits and helping to build a picture of how the ambassadors can assist the guests and enhance the visitor experience. While there are many examples of how they do this, what caught me the most was the passing comments of the visitors which were recorded by the ambassadors.

    What stood out to me is just how much people from all ages had to say about the pieces. The art Labor piece focuses on consumerism and the effects it has on other countries. It uses Vietnamese coffee as an example, as the coffee industry has largely changed the agricultural landscape in that country for the purpose of the product being sold in other countries. The comments from the art labor exhibit range everywhere from “Where can I get coffee like this?” to “It’s like eco-gentrification” and everything in between. Although some of these comments miss the point, but perhaps that’s not the point. In analyzing art or anything else, one has to risk the chance of being wrong. Of course, this isn’t a definitive comment, but when I compare the volume of comments on the surveys along with the comments I’ve observed while wondering the exhibits myself, I’ve found that the amount of comments directed at interactive exhibits greatly surpass those at non-interactive exhibits. This might vary base on the demographic of the visitors. In any event, what follows those statements from what I’ve observed is engagement with the ambassador. This turns the idle comments into a deeper form of understanding including more abstract ideas. It’s my belief that the increase of comfort levels with art using this kind of interaction is the bridge to having the confidence to speak on the feelings one gets from interacting with art that is less physical.

    Ultimately, I feel very privileged to have been able to work under people like Ms. Russell and Ms. Cao and work with their insight and experience to better understand how the guests interact with the museum and seeing how the museum also effects the guest and corresponding community as it opens their minds in various ways and to various topics which they otherwise might not be interacting with. I of course include myself apart of that latter category and attribute my better understanding of the museum’s important place in the community to this internship position and to the insights of the ambassadors and guests with whom I’ve spent time

    Categories: 
    • Academic Interns
    • Undergraduate Work
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh
    Photography: Bryan Conley, Carnegie Museum of Art
     

    Finding Detail in Dimension

    Author: Erin Patrick, Inside the Carnegie International 57th edition, 2018 Student - Fall 2018

    Artist Rachel Rose challenged students to explore the theme of “Depth and Durability” at a recent Tam O’Shanter Drawing Session hosted by the Carnegie Museum of Art, asking everyone to participate in an interval drawing exercise. We began with Rose sharing her struggles as a young artist attending Yale University, and the influence of professor Robert Reed, who inspired the session’s theme. Rose put forward the idea that art can be done in any time frame and with layers of depth. Her idea was a session based off an exercise routine with varying time constraints and focuses.

    After Rose’s introduction, the group moved to the Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s Hall of Minerals where we were each given the opportunity to select a gem and draw it repeatedly for different intervals of time. Rose started with short intervals, increasing to ten minutes, and then back down to thirty seconds.  The process required a great deal of focus yet let us expand and express our relationship with the objects. Although slightly anxiety provoking, the task proved to be a great exercise in mental endurance and flexibility. How can you complete a drawing of a three-dimensional object in thirty seconds?   How does your interpretation of an object change between thirty seconds versus ten minutes?  Rachel’s process made us think through the dimensions of the object, which was reflected in the evolution of our drawings. Students’ works varied in texture, shape, size, and value throughout the process. 

    After the session, Rose allowed time for debriefing. We were encouraged to share our art and discuss how the time intervals affected our expression. The Tam O’Shanter session was a challenge in the best way possible:  we were allowed to let our creative process free, just as Rose has in her upcoming work in the Carnegie International, 57th Edition, 2018.

    Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

    Categories: 
    • Undergraduate Work
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh
  • Museum guest poses with work of art

    Museum guest poses with work of art.

     

    First Impressions: Attracting Museum Visitors Through Effective Web Design and Usability

    Museum Studies Intern at the Carnegie Museum of Art – Spring 2018

    For many people visiting museums in the contemporary world, the first point of contact with a museum and its collections is not within the walls of the museum complex itself, but through the museum’s online presence. An individual’s decision on whether or not a museum is worth visiting is informed not only through word of mouth and reputation, but through Google (or any other search engine of choice). Review sites such Yelp and social media presence via platforms such as Facebook and Instagram are relevant to this discussion. Even more significantly, however, is the museum’s portrayal of itself on the official website. 

    In Spring 2018, I was a Museum Studies intern at the Carnegie Museum of Art, focusing on the museum’s online presence and improving outreach to audiences. Because cmoa.org website is likely the first platform on which museum goers are going to experience the Carnegie Museum of Art, it is crucial that the website constructs an image of the Carnegie Museum of Art that is both accurate and enticing. While this may seem like an obvious and overly simple goal, it is difficult to sustain a consist pubic image in a very active programming environment.  Because events and exhibitions come and go on a day-to-day basis, online representation must also reflect and synchronize with the series of events.

    Achieving accuracy and synchronicity with programming is related to another difficult goal—the intuitive usability of the website for visitors. Usability must anticipate the impulses and cognitive patterns of online visitors. This means that a good website must reflect the associations that most people—literally the majority—form in their mind, anticipating their online “desire paths.” This is difficult because a wide variety of people will have personal preferences for which website layouts are the most intuitive.   

    In my job I helped the museum website’s usability to potential guests—hopefully transforming them into actual guests.  I had to assure that the dates posted for upcoming events were correct.  Meanwhile I had to make sure that past events did not linger on the website crowding out the upcoming events.

    I learned that it is important for a museum’s website to appear as though it is cared for. In the minds of online users, this appearance and usability reflects the amount of care that is put into the museums actual collections and programming.  For many audiences the online presence and real-life presentations of museums are one and the same.

    Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

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