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Virtual Princeton University Art Gallery

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Virtual Princeton University Art Gallery, 2020-21


Featuring the works The Rouge, Study 59 & Study 98, (1995-1996), by Michael Kenna, The Blue Lagoon & Windmills, (1958), by Virginia Beahan & Laura McPhee, Windmills, Coachella Valley, and Fire in the San Gorgonio Mountains, Amphitheater, David Gulch, Escalante basin, (1965), by Eliot Furness Porter, Sand Dunes with Truck on Pan Am Highway, (1989), and Windmill Farming, Tehachapi, (1986), by Marilyn Bridges, Denver, 1974 by Robert Adams, Barn and Smokestacks, Moss Landing, (1967–68), by Liliane DeCock-Morgan, Hoover Dam, Arizona/Nevada, from the Water in the West Project, (1987), by Robert Dawson, Manhattan Beach, California, Looking North from Marina by Robbert Flick, (1982), Palm Jumeirah, Dubai, United Arab Emirates, (2008), by Alexander Heilner, Clearing Winter Storm, Yosemite National Park, California, (1944), by Ansel Adams, Burial Ground from the series Nuclear Landscapes, (1988), by Peter Goin, Path in Woods, Great Spruce Head Island, Maine, (1981), by Eliot Furness Porter, Schoodic Point, Maine, (1968), by Minor White, Untitled, (1937), by Brett Weston, Iceberg, Ross Sea, (1976), by Eliot Furness Porter, Old Hanford City Site and the Columbia River, (1996), by Emmet Gowin, Labyrinth, Wright Valley, (1975), by Eliot Furness Porter, & Untitled #4, (2007), by Carlos Jiménez Cahua.

During COVID, restrictions to the Princeton University Art Museum meant that physical access to the museum was limited.


While hosted as a visiting Professional Specialist at Princeton University in the Fall of 2020, I worked with an interdisciplinary group of colleagues to develop a Virtual Princeton
University Art Museum, to give students a novel way to experience art the pandemic.


In particular, we focused on re-creating an exhibit centering on Albert Bierstadt’s 1875 oil painting of Mount Adams, Washington. Each additional work in the original exhibit was drawn from the museum’s collection; focusing on images of natural and urban landscapes, each demonstrative of the effects of climate change on the natural environment.

As a collaboration with Stephen Kim, Daniel Brennan, and Cathryn Goodwin from the Princeton University Art Museum,
I developed a simulated exhibit using Unity & WebGL. The resulting application enabled students to explore a lifelike simulation of a museum exhibit while interacting live via the Zoom platform.


Students had full control of this online virtual simulation. By enabling control over navigation of the space, or, zooming in and out on particular works of their choosing, this immersive learning experience approximated the real museum environment, especially critical during a time when the pandemic prevented direct interaction

 

The project was regarded as successful, as it provided students the opportunity to see artworks at the appropriate relative scale, in relation to similar works, and to see a dense amount of detail; even at a proximity not possible in the real space.

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Concept, Design & Development

An experiment in virtual curation, we started by arranging a layout in 2D, based on the work's actual size and visual similarity.


In the Unity Game Engine, I programmed each painting to link to the Museum’s hard-coded high-resolution IIIF image, integrating the simulation with the museum’s existing database.

Virtual Curatorial Collaboration

The arrangement of works spatially emulated the size and scale of an actual room in the museum.


Each work was labeled with legible text descriptions, enabling students to identify works as they explored the space.

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Zoom Interactive Museum

During the Zoom class, students were enabled to explore the room from the comfort of their laptop, working together in groups of Zoom breakout rooms.


This experiment in online learning
was effective during the pandemic at emulating aspects of a real experience. The application can also be easily viewed through VR, when applicable. Virtual Curatorial Collaboration