Category Archives: Behind the Scenes

A Closer Look at the Technology Behind an Exhibition


"A Closer Look" iPads installed in the gallery.

“A Closer Look” iPads installed in the gallery

The museum recently opened Small Prints, Big Artists: Masterpieces from the Renaissance to Baroque, a comprehensive exhibition that traces the development of prints across the centuries, explores the evolution of printmaking techniques, and unlocks the images’ hidden meanings. The works in the show are dynamic, striking, elaborately detailed, and quite beautiful. If you haven’t yet seen the exhibition, it runs throughout the summer and I highly recommend it. Continue reading

Frances Benjamin Johnston in Charleston


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Frances Benjamin Johnston, self-portrait, in her Washington, D.C., studio, 1896.

I recently spent a few days in Charleston, South Carolina, researching and revisiting sites photographed by Frances Benjamin Johnston. In the Heinz Architectural Collection there are 25 photographs by Johnston, an early female photojournalist and later in life a documentary photographer. Johnston’s interest in photographing buildings was mainly for preservation purposes. Her goal was to document the buildings should they be torn down, but also to inspire communities to preserve or restore the historic edifices if possible. The photographs in our collection represent houses, storefronts, and architectural details around the historic downtown Charleston area. The set was displayed in 1937 at the Gibbes Art Gallery, now the Gibbes Art Museum, and will be on view in the Heinz Architectural Center in the upcoming exhibition Architecture + Photography.

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Frances Benjamin Johnston, 148 Queen Street, Charleston, S.C., 1937, gelatin silver print. This image is one of the thousands of photographs taken by Johnston in the Carnegie Survey of the Architecture of the South.

Johnston donated most of her archive to the Library of Congress. Part of the archive includes the original photographs of the Carnegie Survey of the Architecture of the South, a multi-year endeavor to photograph buildings from Maryland to Louisiana.

During my research trip I revisited the sites in Johnston’s photographs in an attempt to recreate the scene as much as possible. Many of the buildings in our set of 25 photographs are still standing, but a few are empty lots, or are completely unrecognizable. Below are some comparisons between Johnston’s images from 1937 and some from the recent trip.

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Market Hall, Charleston, S.C.; (L): Frances Benjamin Johnston, 1937, gelatin silver print (R): 2013

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Doorway at 32 Charlotte Street, Charleston, S.C.; (L): Frances Benjamin Johnston, 1937, gelatin silver print (R): 2013

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Parish House, Congregational Church, Charleston, S.C.; (L): Frances Benjamin Johnston, 1937, gelatin silver print (R): 2013

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Town Houses, Charleston, S.C.; (L): Frances Benjamin Johnston, 1937, gelatin silver print (R): 2013

Sneak Peek: Carnegie Trees


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Enjoy a first look at this year’s Carnegie Trees at tonight’s preview party!

A holiday tradition since 1961, Carnegie Trees is an annual event featuring six 20-foot Colorado spruce trees alongside our renowned Neapolitan presepio in the Hall of Architecture. This holiday season, each tree will be adorned with ornaments that celebrate the art of play—a prevalent theme in the 2013 Carnegie International.

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This year’s designers include Mernie Berger and Lowrie Ebbert; Carole Kamin; Nancy Lewis with Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh; Cynthia Cooley and Suzanne McLaughlin; Laura Beattie with Frick Art & Historical Center; and the Society for Contemporary Craft.

Tickets can be purchased here.

New Hire: Hattie Lehman


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What is your official title and what are some of your general responsibilities?
Program coordinator, adult group programs. My main responsibilities are focused around the CMOA Docent Corps. Along with Becky Gaugler (assistant curator of education, programs for student & adult groups), I work to prepare docents to give the best experience possible to all participants of docent-led tours. I also work to expand and strengthen adult audiences and assist with new adult programming.

What were you doing before joining us at CMOA?
I was the assistant curator of education at The Textile Museum in Washington, DC, for the past 4 years. As a member of a two-person education department, I was responsible for a whole lot of everything, but focused primarily on youth and family programming and outreach.

What’s your favorite exhibition that you saw this past year?
Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Art and Design; 1848–1900 at The National Gallery of Art. The brotherhood’s ability to so richly depict textiles on a two-dimensional surface knocks my socks off every time, I can’t help it!

If you could steal one artwork from our collection, what would it be?

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Bruce Talbert, designer, British, 1838–1881; Gillow and Company, manufacturer, British, c.1730–1987; Side cabinet, 1867, walnut with walnut veneer, multi wood inlay, and brass; Berdan Memorial Trust Fund

Bruce James Talbert’s Side cabinet, manufactured by Gillow & Company, 1867. It is breathtaking.

Describe Pittsburgh in five words or less.
Friendliest place I’ve ever lived.

Favorite hobbies? Timewasters? Etc.?
I like to write letters the old-fashioned way, with paper, pens, envelopes and stamps. I will happily tackle any textile-related project and love my sewing machine. I enjoy time outside: in a garden, camping, or just walking around.

CMOA: Now Available in the App Store


CMOA Companion App

It’s no secret the proliferation of mobile devices and persistent connectivity are changing the way we live our lives—it even impacts the way visitors experience a museum. Today I’m happy to announce that Carnegie Museum of Art’s first mobile application is available for download from the Apple App Store. Beginning this Saturday, October 5th, in association with the opening of the 2013 Carnegie International, the museum will also make iDevices available to visitors for use in our galleries (first come, first served). It is our hope that this digital offering will deepen relationships with users via the objects on view at the museum.

A Companion App for Your Museum

Launching with the 2013 Carnegie International, this first version of the CMOA companion app will allow you to learn more about the 35 artists in the exhibition, see an image of every work that will be on view, experience related video and audio, explore thematic tours of artworks, and more. The app is a universal iOS application, meaning it is available for iPod Touch, iPhone, and iPad. As this has been the museum’s first foray into mobile application development, we chose the iOS platform because we simply needed a solid and stable place to start. The application works on devices running iOS 6.1 or newer, and it is optimized for the recently released iOS 7. We encourage you to download and install the app on your device (it’s free) or borrow one of ours to use while you’re visiting.

Usefulness and Usability

As we were building the app, we designed it to be useful for visitors in the gallery as well as users experiencing the app from outside the museum. An example of this functionality is the “My Bookmarked Artwork” feature.* Think of it as a “Read Later” service for your museum visit. If you’re in the gallery enjoying an artwork and want to learn more about it, but don’t want to experience the content during your visit, you can bookmark that object for revisiting later whenever you’d like. Conversely, you can use the “My Bookmarked Artworks” area to create a checklist of must-see pieces in advance of your next visit to the museum.

Personality

We want this app to be a delight to use. From the friendly and accessible user interface to the engaging audio and videos, our hope is that users will thoroughly enjoy the app experience and come to love its underlying personality. While substantive and informative, content relating to the 2013 Carnegie International is informal by design and occasionally introduces elements of humor, wit, and the people behind the exhibition. Videos in the “CMOA TV” section shine a light on the museum’s behind-the-scenes process, again highlighting the amazing people here that make the exhibitions happen.

Interoperability and Accessibility

We understand not everyone has an iDevice and we’ve gone to great lengths to build this app so it plays nice with external platforms and the open web. Each object represented in the app also has a corresponding presence on the open web. The open web permalinks include the same images, text, videos, and audio that are in the app. When you share an artwork from inside the app with your contacts or social networks, you are effectively sharing the open web versions so they can be viewed by everyone—even users who don’t have the CMOA app.

We’ve also leveraged the potential of mobile through integrations with popular messaging (Email, Messages, Facebook, Twitter), navigation (Apple Maps, Google Maps) and web browsing (Safari, Chrome) apps.

Future Growth & Development

This is version 1.0 of the CMOA companion app, and as I mentioned before, it’s just the beginning. We’re approaching this project as an organic, fluid and agile process. The app will remain in active development as we work to include the museum’s permanent collection and future exhibitions. We also plan to make it available to Android users in short order and rapidly introduce new and interesting functionality as opportunities arise.

Delivering this project was a true team effort. Without the hard work of the following people, this project would never have seen the light of day: Dimitry Bentsionov of Two Tap Labs; Katie Reilly, Ian Finch and the museum’s publications department; Marilyn Russell, Lucy Stewart and the CMOA education department; John Surloff and John Ericksen in IT; and our wonderful beta testers who helped uncover bugs and provide feedback during the development process.

What would you love to see in a museum mobile application? Please use the comment thread below to let us know your thoughts. Maybe you’ll see your concept in an upcoming version update!

*Hat tip to Jeff Lovett, CMOA’s construction and facilities coordinator. The bookmarking feature was all his idea.