Museums and the Web 2014: Seeing Through Layers

Wouldn’t it be amazing to touch an object and reveal a hidden world of color? Your hand glides along a surface, and virtual swirls erupt like fireworks—as if you have the hands of a wizard. Well, the folks at Disney Research are toying with this idea.

Antenna's Senior Content Designer, Sarah Brockett, was one of several Antenna attendees to Museums and the Web 2014. A few weeks on and many of us have been reflecting on the themes and ideas. Here Sarah writes about a singular motif that emerged for her: 'Layers'.

 

Wouldn’t it be amazing to touch an object and reveal a hidden world of color? Your hand glides along a surface, and virtual swirls erupt like fireworks—as if you have the hands of a wizard. Well, the folks at Disney Research are toying with this idea. And it’s just one of the ways that institutions are thinking about layers as different windows toward seeing. With layering, technology can help us see the invisible, reveal something that no longer exists, add a new dimension to our vision, or show what’s behind the curtain. At Museums & the Web this year, lots of institutions showcased creative ways to introduce layers through technology. Here are just a few:

Botanicus Interacticus: Engineers at Disney Research are playing with ways of enhancing reality with layers of animation. For example, you can touch a plant and conjure up sounds and colored swirls of light. It brings interactivity to a whole new level. More on Disney Labs here  and a sample interactive here.

Touch Van Gogh: The Van Gogh Museum’s app peels “layers” back to reveal what’s beneath the artist’s paint. It invites you to become the researcher and discover hidden secrets in Van Gogh’s works. For instance, visitors can swipe an in-gallery iPad to “scratch off” the top layer of paint and reveal x-rays of an older painting beneath the surface. More here.

Athens Augmented: The British Museum designed a kids’ app in which layers help restore things we can no longer see. Kids use augmented reality to critically examine and understand the Parthenon frieze, as it looks now, and as it originally appeared. Layers restore details that have been worn away, giving kids a better visual context for understanding the culture of Athens as represented on the frieze. Here's their presentation. 

La cubiste fabrique: This app from the Réunion des musées Nationaux-Grand-Palais lets users apply six different camera filters to “cubism-ify” photographs on their own smartphones. These geometric prisms help users understand the fracturing and structure that went into Cubist paintings, by engaging them via the camera with their own contemporary photos and “seeing.” Their paper describing the project - and others from RMN-GP is here.

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