Spotlight on the Tate

This year I attended my first Museums and the Web Conference in San Diego. During the exhibition portion of the conference there were a number of booths set up by different museums and organizations involved in digital projects. I did a few circuits of the floor stopping at interesting booths here and there. It was quickly clear that the Tate had a major presence. Not only did they have three booths instead of the one or none that most museums had, but their booths appeared to be the most popular with huge crowds surrounding them. So what are they doing that is so interesting? Well where do I begin?!

Firstly I’d like to preface this by saying that the exciting thing for me was that most of the web projects they featured were educational! Also a bit of background on the Tate. The Tate is an arts institution that houses the UK’s national collection of British art as well as International Modern and Contemporary art. There are four locations – Tate Britain in London, Tate Modern in London, Tate St Ives in Cornwall and Tate Liverpool.

Here are a few of the outstanding projects I learned about at the Museums and the Web Conference.

Young Creatives Hello Cube

Sarah Toplis, Commissioning Editor described an exciting digital project called the Hello Cube. The project is interactive and was inspired by the work of artist Yayoi Kusama. The cube is an actual physical cube that sat in the temporary exhibition about Kusama and was created by Hellicar and Lewis (a digital team) who worked with the Young Creatives (15-25 year olds) at the Tate Modern. The Young Creatives learned about the artist Kusama in order to create their response – the Hello Cube. The cube responds to physical movement and sound in the gallery as well as direct commands from tweets via twitter. Commands were tweeted to @thehellocube. This project allowed the Young Creatives to learn about digital art and to have their creation incorporated into the museum making it a truly interactive and educational experience.

E-Learning Classes

The Tate has a series of online courses that are run by Rosie Cardiff the E-Learning Editor. One of the courses, Artists’ Techniques and Methods, features a different artist in the Tate’s collection for each unit. The students examine how the artists created their works by watching videos and reading step-by-step guides on how to use the artists’ techniques in their own works of art. There is a downloadable worksheet accompanying each unit. Students are encouraged to upload images of their works of art to share them with each other via an online image gallery. There is also a discussion forum for students. Rosie said that the communities created using these two tools are very strong and supportive.

Games

Sharna Jackson, Tate Kids Editor described some of the games she has created for Tate Kids. One of the latest is called Wondermind. It’s Alice in Wonderland themed to go with the Tate’s temporary exhibition about the same subject. The game encourages the integration of art and science. There are four different games to be played within Wondermind with each teaching the user about how the brain works. The participant plays a game that is either about memory, spatial awareness, pathway connections or word recognition. After playing each game a video pops up and explains the details of the brain function used by the game. The videos are interactive as the viewer is asked to answer questions, the answers of which prompt the video to continue in one way or another. This is only one of many games available on the Tate Kids website.

Interactive in-gallery digital art projects, e-learning classes and online games are three ways in which technology and education interface at the Tate. How are they working together in your museum?

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