Category Archives: Digital

We’re on Instagram!

Nick Cave. Detail, Soundsuit. 2013. © Nick Cave. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

Nick Cave. Detail, Soundsuit. 2013. © Nick Cave. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

Today is Museums on Instagram day, where museums from all over the world share photographs that bring the museum to life, and for the first time The Baltimore Museum of Art is one of them. This morning, we posted our first photographs to Instagram, and we’ll continue to use the platform to share the moments and works of art that inspire us daily.

Joining Instagram is the latest in a series of steps we’ve recently taken to increase our social media presence, including renewed attention to our Twitter account, the Department of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs’ Tumblr, and this blog. This is particularly important for us as we approach our 100th birthday because we’re focused on reconnecting with our communities ­– learning who you are, what you’re interested in, and how we can better connect with you. For us, being social really is about an exchange of ideas and opening up space for conversation, and we can only do that if we’re in the same places as our community.

The BMA has a long history of seeking to connect with its communities to gain their feedback. In 1937, the Museum’s Trustees surveyed 225 organizations in Baltimore. Their responses would go on to inform programming and the Museum’s approach for several years.

The 1937 museum questionnaire

The 1937 museum questionnaire

In coming days, we’ll be announcing another initiative that will further connect the work that happens inside the building to our communities. In the meantime, join us on our new Instagram account baltimoremuseumofart, on Twitter and Facebook, and follow the #InstaMuseum hashtag to see what museums all over the world are doing.

Let us know what you think. Which social media channels do you use for art, and why? What would you like to see us doing more of? We’d love to hear from you.

3D scanning Auguste Rodin’s The Thinker

A 3D scan of Auguste Rodin's The Thinker

Direct Dimensions’ 3D scan of Auguste Rodin’s The Thinker in The Baltimore Museum of Art collection

The BMA has one of only 21 authorized “heroic” sized casts of Auguste Rodin’s The Thinker in the world, and in June this year, we partnered with Maryland-based Direct Dimensions, Inc. – a leader in 3D scanning technology – to do a 3D scan of the sculpture.

The move is part of the BMA’s initiative to increase its use of 3D scanning in the digitization of its collection. We were inspired to see how utilizing 3D scanning technologies might allow us to see The Thinker differently, and to discover what other people might be able to do with such scans if they were made available to scholars and the public via the Internet.

Museums are beginning to embrace the possibilities for digital scanning for multiple purposes, and the BMA has previously partnered with Direct Dimensions to scan works for scholarly research.  In 2004, Direct Dimensions was engaged to scan two separate castings of Antoine-Louis Barye’s Walking Tiger. By scanning the two tigers and overlaying the resulting 3D models, the BMA was able to dimensionally inspect and compare the two castings.

The Museum again worked with Direct Dimensions in 2007 and 2008, in support of the exhibition Matisse: Painter as Sculptor, which featured more than 160 sculptures, along with paintings and drawings from the artist. BMA curators were interested in utilizing the scanning technology to discover more about Matisse’s creative process as a sculptor. Their analysis of the scans led to the discovery that bronze casts of the same edition had considerable differences in their methods of construction, patination, finishing, and size, contributing to knowledge about how Matisse created various casts.

These kinds of scholarly and conservation-driven research projects offer some of the most tantalizing outcomes for 3D scanning and printing in museums today. For instance, conservators can use deviation analysis of 3D data to compare the condition of a collection item against a past state, or curators can use the technology to learn more about the techniques of artists, as the BMA did with the Matisse sculptures.

The addition of affordable 3D printing to the available technologies has expanded the possibilities for how such scans can be used. The Brooklyn Museum, for example, has scanned Randolph Rogers’s The Lost Pleiad to experiment with replicating a 19th-century statue with 21st century technology. The Museum has used this sculpture as an in-Gallery teaching tool. Similarly, the Semitic Museum has used 3D printing in the reconstruction of a Nuzi lion. A damaged version of Rodin’s The Thinker has even been scanned before, to enable repairs to the sculpture after thieves broke into the Singer Laren Museum and damaged the original.

The BMA’s The Thinker – a 6-foot, 6-inch sculpture – was presented to the museum in 1930 by Jacob Epstein, a collector and member of the first Board of Trustees, and displayed in front of the entrance to the John Russell Pope building until 1971 when it was moved inside for conservation.  Though originally intended to represent the poet Dante, The Thinker has become a symbol for thinkers and creators around the world.

We have plans to offer our scan of The Thinker to the world, by putting it into the public domain along with the nearly 9,000 images and related information about objects in the BMA’s collection that are already available on our website. This will be the first time we’ve made available a 3D scan of a BMA object, and we’re looking forward to seeing how it might be used by scholars and the public all over the world.

What do you think? How might you use a 3D scan of The Thinker? What would you like to see us do with this scan?

To find out more about 3D scanning, join us this weekend at Artscape, where we’ll be joined by Direct Dimensions for activities inspired by The Thinker.

Posts for print lovers

Christian Gottfried Schultze (German, 1749‑1819)
After Peter Paul Rubens (Flemish, 1577‑1640)
Neptune Calming the Tempest, 18th‑19th century
Engraving
The Baltimore Museum of Art: Garrett Collection, BMA 1946.112.13497

In June, the Department of Prints, Drawing & Photographs (PDP) at the BMA launched its first social media account with a Tumblr dedicated to highlighting captivating works on paper from the collection. With the Museum’s online collection constantly growing, this new space offers PDP a chance to give a more intimate glimpse into the Department’s daily meanderings through the collection. It is also a place for interaction and research where you can ask questions about the works you see on the site, or other works on paper from the BMA collection. What do you want to know?

Benjamin Levy Curatorial Assistant Department of Prints, Drawings & Photographs The Baltimore Museum of Art

Benjamin Levy
Curatorial Assistant
Department of Prints, Drawings & Photographs

To find out more about this new project, we spoke to Benjamin Levy, Curatorial Assistant in the Department of Prints, Drawings & Photographs:

Ben, the BMA has more than 65,000 works on paper in the collection. What are some of the highlights of this collection? What might surprise me about the collection?
The size is normally the first thing that surprises people; works on paper make up about 70% of the collection. The works on paper collection ranges from the 15th century to yesterday. It is really a hidden gem. Every box and drawer has something unexpected, and that discovery is what is so exciting and surprising on a daily basis.

The core of the print collection, which you will see as the Tumblr chugs along, is made up of two collections – the Garrett and Lucas collections, both of which contain between 15,000 and 20,000 prints. They came to us in the 1930s. We are strong in Old Master, 19th century French, Modern and Contemporary works of art.

You’ve just started a Tumblr to share some of these works with the public. What can people expect from the Tumblr?
Because works on paper are sensitive to light they can’t be out in the galleries for extended periods of time. The way the public, classes, and scholars get access to the collection is through our Study Room. People can expect a parallel experience, showcasing works from the collection that are not regularly on display in the galleries for a personal viewing.

You can also expect to see the collection through my eyes, as an artist going through the boxes. Sometimes there is a visual theme that seems to come up often, like death and skulls, shipwrecks through the centuries, or just scrumpy mark making!

Have you been surprised by anything that you’ve found so far when choosing works to appear on the Tumblr?
My colleagues and I are surprised by the depth and variety of the collection daily, as we go about caring for it. This is exactly what we would like to share with a larger audience – a peek into what we see every day – the beautiful and the strange, and everything in between.

It’s probably the strange that catches my attention more than anything. Since prints are “The People’s Medium”, you can really get a sense of the popular culture and the sociopolitical currents of a place and time so far removed. Some things translate well, but others come off as completely alien, especially those involving scenes of everyday life, like Callot’s etchings of Italian street performers or Daumier’s lithographs caricaturing the people of 19th century Paris.

In the opening post for the Tumblr, you mention that you want the Tumblr to be a daily dose of inspiration, but I’d like to know what inspires you. What catches your attention and inspires you, online and offline?
What jumps out of the boxes and drawers most of the time will land on the Tumblr. The selection process is more or less visual, and while the works on the Tumblr are things that stand out for one reason or another, very few of them were specifically sought out for research.

What is inspiring is the amazing stories that arise when we go into research. It is so exciting learning about small moments in history, bits of biographies, myths and lore – not to mention the amazing diversity of artistic expression over the last 500 years or so.

The inspiration comes full circle when classes, especially studio art classes, come to the Study Room and that inspiration is shared and utilized to make new work. This is a working collection; not works entombed, but a vibrant place for learning and education that will inform the next generation of artists, art historians, and anyone who has a passing interest. We also get to make connections between historic works in the collection and contemporary works, and there is no better place to do that than the biennial Baltimore Contemporary Print Fair, scheduled for March 28-29, 2015.

What do you think? Is there anything you’d like to see on PDP’s new Tumblr? What kinds of works on paper inspire you?

Benjamin Levy is a native Baltimorian, printmaker, critic, and curator. He is a 2009 graduate of MICA and since then has been at the BMA in the Department of Prints, Drawings and Photographs. At the Museum he works with the works on paper collection, teaching in the department’s study room and is also the co-organizer of the Baltimore Contemporary Print Fair with Associate Curator Ann Shafer.