Best of Mountain View: Real estate software transforms museum collection into a virtual gallery | News
It is an art to display paintings, sculpture, and a 235-ton piece of steel under one roof – methods curators have studied and developed over many centuries, said Susan Dackerman, outgoing director of Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University.
“We have centuries of experience installing artwork in art museums,” said Dackerman. “Personally, I don’t have centuries of experience, but there are traditions and conventions and you learn from these lessons.”
But how can you put an entire museum – originally intended to be experienced in person – online during a global health crisis?
For the Cantor Arts Center, home to more than 38,000 works of art from Stanford University, the real estate industry already had part of the answer.
One of the problems the campus museum had to solve was bypassing restrictions on large gatherings and maintaining a resource not only for the local aestheticians but also for the academics who view the arts center as a teaching tool.
“We wanted to make sure we had the resources to support the university’s research and teaching mission,” said Dackerman.
To that end, the museum invested in new technology – one of which is called Matterport, a 3D imaging platform perfected for real estate professionals to showcase commercial or residential properties online. (The Sunnyvale-based company’s customers include Coldwell Banker and Cushman & Wakefield.)
Matterport allows the Cantor Arts Center to extract 3D renderings of the museum space along with its extensive collection of paintings of Auguste Rodin’s bronze sculptures from the mid-20th century and upload them to the museum’s website.
In this way, viewers can virtually walk through part of the 130,000 square meter campus of the art center and enlarge each work of art with the push of a button.
The technology is not without its limitations, however. Dackerman and many other art lovers agree that current digital technology cannot fully reproduce the experience of seeing all the true colors and textures of a work of art in person.
“There’s nothing like a face-to-face encounter with art. That way there’s just so much more immediacy and intimacy,” said Dackerman.
But there are still advantages to the compromises. With much of the museum now online, the Cantor Arts Center is no longer limited to local visitors or researchers, but is open to everyone around the world.
“It’s a really interesting thing about museums because you can have the experience of going to the museum from home, which makes us more accessible to a much wider population,” said Dackerman.
And virtual tours don’t have to carry the burden of replacing personal experience. Instead, the museum director sees this digital initiative as an opportunity to encourage people to look for art later in real life.
“Even after the closure is over, even after we’ve all moved around the world again, I think we’ve learned some really interesting lessons and that our program will be much more hybrid going forward,” said Dackerman. “It’s going to be a combination of personal and digital platforms because it really expands our base.”
The art center continues to expand its virtual resources. In addition to a large library with artist talks, learning guides and tours led virtually by lecturers, the museum will publish new exhibitions online.
For example, next year the Cantor Arts Center is planning to launch a new exhibition titled “When Home Doesn’t Let You Stay”, in which contemporary artists address the issues of migration and global movement – a particularly relevant topic when they talk about the Thinking about spreading a virus, Dackerman said.
“Over the past seven months we’ve had a number of protocols for virtual tours,” said Dackerman. “I would say we’re still very much experimenting and learning from them.”
This story appeared as part of the online edition of Voice’s Best of Mountain View. With this year’s Best Of, we welcome the efforts of local companies to redefine their activities during the coronavirus pandemic. We share the stories of how some companies have reacted to the coronavirus and take a look at how our Best Of 2019 winners are doing a year later.