The Goldwater Library is pleased to announce its contribution to
community-based photo sharing,
Museum: Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the
If you're reading this post, chances are you're already familiar with flickr, one of several social networking photo sharing tools on the Internet. The 'sharing' in photo sharing comes not only from adding photographs to the Internet for all to see. It also comes from contributing to other people's photos with notes, comments, and keywords or phrases, known as 'tags'.
Albums (or 'sets' in flickr parlance) allow any member-contributors to assemble photographs by theme, event, or whatever concept they choose. Similarly members can create a collective album, known as a 'group' or 'pool', to take advantage of other people's photographs by likewise gathering them under a single banner. It's this 'pool' concept that we're taking advantage of, a gathering together photos taken by visitors to the AAOA galleries -- the objects, the installation, the visitors, in short, the entire experience.
An article some months back in
in this space got us thinking about differences in the approach taken by art
museums toward photography in their galleries. Art museums have had policies
governing the taking of photographs in their galleries since indoor photography
first became practical. And when it comes to publishing photographs of museum
objects, museums have created a cottage industry in selling rights and reproductions
of objects in their collections.
But the pervasiveness of digital photography and photo sharing websites (such as flickr) has significantly altered the equation. There's scarcely anywhere impervious to digital photo documentation. Family photographs, once relegated to shoe boxes or dusty albums, can now not only be readily retrieved but also relentless shared with everyone. In effect, the personal becomes not just public but universal. And amateur photography taken inside museums have long been a staple of travel albums.
But why this particular project and why now?
One of the most frequently asked questions we get from visitors begins:
More often than not the visitor has not copied down any of the object information -- the title or accession number -- that we need to locate it in our local resources. The visitor might not even be able to describe what it looks like or where it's located. There might be a crude sketch, however. If we can't figure it out, we might send the visitor back downstairs to copy down the accession number. The visitor usually returns ... but not always.
With this problem in mind the Library had been casting about for a way to capitalize
on existing installation photography of the AAOA galleries to create a 'finding aid' for
its library researchers: a virtual image library of the galleries. Enter "phlogging".
Approaches to Phlogging in Museums
Phlogging (ph[oto] + [b]logging) is, at its simplest, photo documentation online. There are several approaches toward photo sharing of images from museums, depending on the level of involvement by the 'host' institution.
The 'Do-It-Yourself' Museum Phlog flickr encourages any member to create groups of their own devising. Among them are countless groups devoted to real (or imaginary) museums, including British Museum, National Museum of Scotland, Denver Art Museum, and Kabul Museum (real); Museum of Iraq 2.0 (sadly virtual); and the Sugar Frosted Cereal Museum (decidedly imaginary), to name only a few. These are administered by individuals unaffiliated with the museum they are showcasing, or so it would appear. The Metropolitan Museum of Art group is run by two thirty-year-old men from Astoria, Queens. (But see also The Metropolitan Museum below.)
Sometimes these do-it-yourself flickr projects take on a life of their own. Such is theMoMAproject[NYC]. It began on flickr as iMoMA (Impressions of MoMA) in early 2006. A year and a half later the site boasts nearly 19,000 images.
Since the Artnet piece first appeared, theMoMAproject has launched a companion web site, the Photomoma Virtual Museum. It allows direct uploading of images without the necessity of a flickr account (although a Photomoma account is required). According to one of the admins, "We still encourage contributions to our Flickr Group." The raison-d'être cited on Photomoma's "about" page could speak just as easily to the flickr group:
Photomoma is a virtual museum. It consists solely of photographs of works found within the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. While such a museum is nothing new at MoMA themselves have a virtual gallery of all their items in Photomoma focuses on the impressions of visitors to the museum ....
The result will be a pastiche of images that will force the viewer to critique their own relationship to the artwork in the photographs. Furthermore, the viewer will have to question whether or not the photographs themselves are works of art. In this way, Photomoma is designed to educate viewers not only about the artwork in the photographs, but about art in general and the ways in which the Internet can change how we both see and perceive it.
'All In': The Brooklyn Museum Some museums have created their own flickr accounts. These are frequently in-house organs highlighting events and activities within its walls. Our own Metropolitan Museum has an account which for the most part gathers together photographs from Museum-sponsored events.
Other museums also support flickr groups centered around their collections: Museum of London and Victoria & Albert Museum, to name just two. The Brooklyn Museum has been in the forefront in using flickr as an outreach and public relations tool. The Museum both coordinates and generates content. In January 2007 the museum posted an announcement openly soliciting images of the Brooklyn Museum and its collections for its flickr group and, through the use of a shared flickr tag, the museum's web site. It has initiated an in-house flickr group (Digg Diary), encouraging participation in a flickr group and a community-based flickr group dedicated to Brooklyn Graffiti.
YOU MIGHT SAY what we are doing in the Goldwater Library lies somewhere between the 'do-it-yourself' and 'all in' approaches. We are working from within the institution but, like the blog itself, we make no claims to represent the institution. The library will both solicit members to add photographs to the pool as well as receive (and review) unsolicited contributions.
We intend to add photographs of our own to the mix, but not in an all-out effort to fully document the galleries. The AAOA galleries are constantly in flux as objects are reinstalled, rearranged, or replaced.We also expect to use the flickr group to publicize the library through links to its various other web manifestations.
How many pictures of the Metropolitan Museum of Art are already on flickr? Any survey depends entirely on how members have chosen to identify their photos. It's hard to say, but inexact as the they are the numbers are staggering. (See below for a snapshot of search results.) Even so, clearly only a fraction of them are from the AAOA galleries. Right now the Greek and Roman galleries and longtime favorite Egyptian galleries lead the pack.
Informal flickr search results a/o August 2, 2007
- 28,368 full text / 9,564 tagged "metropolitan" and "museum";
- 22,127 full text / 4,109 tagged "metropolitan", "museum" and "art";
- 10,701 full text / 10,698 tagged "metropolitanmuseumofart";
- 3,581 full text / 3,570 tagged "metropolitanmuseum".