Media & Technology on the Go

The Gallery Overview: An Experiment at the IMA

Posted on | May 10, 2009 | 1 Comment

Visiting the Indianapolis Museum of Art during Museums & the Web 2009 was an inspiration in many ways, but the one we got on tape was a discussion and subsequent experiment in creating an audio tour gallery overview. Richard McCoy, objects conservator at the IMA, and Beth Harris, director of digital learning at MoMA and principle of, and I took a whirlwind tour through a few galleries as the museum was closing. Tom Jones, a guard at the IMA, kindly kept the ‘Rembrandt Room’ of the Clowes Collection open for us so we wouldn’t miss one of his favorite masterpieces, and he gave us some advice on how to visit the IMA’s collection as well.

In this podcast, you’ll hear us using the SmartHistory dialogue technique to work through some of the ideas for ‘soundtracks‘ and ‘soundbites‘ that I introduced at the AAM Learning in Museums seminar in Minneapolis/St. Paul last summer. We tried to understand how, without rooting visitors to the spot listening to ‘soundbites’ in front of one object after another, we could quickly provide some basic keys to reading a gallery of artworks, designed to be listened to as a ‘soundtrack’ by visitor strolling through the space. We realized that in so doing we were effectively reading the curator’s intentions: the stories and relationships created by the placement of objects in the space, the design, look and feel of the gallery, etc.

There have, of course, been many wonderful gallery overviews in hundreds or even thousands of audio tours over the years. This one is intended to lay bare the aim and structure of the soundtrack and help us re-examine some of the fundamental concepts and components of the audio tour. Your comments and criticisms on this ‘working document’ will be very helpful and welcome!

Credits (in order of appearance in the podcast, excluding room overviews):

Master of the Legend of St. Ursula
Triptych of the Annunciation, about 1483
oil on wood
23 ¼ x 45 ¾ in. (overall)
Indianapolis Museum of Art, Acquired through the generosity of Lilly Endowment and Anonymous Art Fund

Master of the Legend of St. Godelieve
The Miracles of Santiago, about 1500
oil on panel
32 x 138 in. (open)
Indianapolis Museum of Art, James E. Roberts Fund

Rembrandt van Rijn
Dutch (1606-1669)
Self-Portrait, about 1629
oil on wood
17 ½ x 13 ½ in.
Indianapolis Museum of Art, The Clowes Fund Collection

Follower of Rembrandt van Rijn
Dutch (1606-1669)
Old Man with a Tall, Fur-edged Cap
oil on wood
9 ¾ x 7 ½ in.
Indianapolis Museum of Art, The Clowes Fund Collection


One Response to “The Gallery Overview: An Experiment at the IMA”

  1. Smarthistory: The Blog » Blog Archive » Teaching to Learn: SmartHistory in Practice at American Art
    August 13th, 2009 @ 9:32 am

    […] or ‘soundbite’, that focuses on a given artwork in-depth, or is it an overview of a gallery (like this one Beth & I experimented with at the IMA), exhibition or theme that immerses the listener in a ‘soundtrack’ to provide a higher level […]

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