Metropolitan Museum of Art Media Lab

As part of my CfBT Trustee study visit to New York during the Easter school holidays I visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Don Undeen, manager of the MediaLab at The Metropolitan Museum of Art describes his two sides; ‘stuffy curator’ versus ‘arty hacker’ and how he synthesise these two aspects in   his work. I spent an inspiring afternoon with Don, museum colleagues and MediaLab interns in a room surrounded by hacked 1980s games consoles, 3D artefacts and a whirring 3D printer. Don brings the energy and creativity of tech start ups, maker faires and mashes it with high visual art and culture. As London CLC has just started working on a DfE 3D printer pilot in the last few weeks, Don’s developments in 3D printing are particularly inspiring. He talks about the relationship between real artefacts and digital prints and the links between old art and new art. In his article All Art is Made by Makers, Don develops this theme and talks about how artists have always used the latest technology and tools to push their craft to greater heights of expression.

“Museums aren’t just repositories of lifeless objects, but a living forum, where the creative spirit and technical skills of past artists are in constant conversation with makers of the present and future.”
My afternoon at the Met included looking at digital art created by hacking an old Super Mario game and console, learning about Ancient Egyptian hippo figurines, walking through the Met collection wearing a virtual reality headset and handling tiny 3D printed artefacts of sculptures in the museum including an Egyptian goddess on a Pez dispenser. Interns working with the MediaLab presented some of the projects they have been working on using digital technologies to enhance museum visits. As well as the virtual reality tour, these projects included using Google Glass for verbal description of art for the visually impaired, creating algorithms to plot pathways through the museum, using Berger’s ideas about seeing in different ways to inform 3D printing and exploding, melting 3D animated sculptures. Watch out London CLC, the maker artists are coming.


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