As part of QAGOMA’s Collection Online project, the Gallery joins forces with Queensland University of Technology (QUT) for a new Digital Residency, writes Tonya Turner, that will reveal how digital experiences can best engage virtual and on-the-ground visitors.
The residency will break new ground in understanding how visitors engage with art and digital interactives across gallery spaces. Undertaken by QUT’s Associate Professor of Digital Pedagogies, Dr Kate Thompson, the residency also provides a detailed review of existing research into how people use and learn from digital museum experiences.
According to Thompson, there is much work to be done in the field. ‘Digital interactions are a powerful way to immerse visitors in an experience that can extend the art in a lot of different ways — there just isn’t a lot of research on it’, she says. Thompson’s planned outcome of the residency is a set of design principles, ‘so if you’d like your exhibit to have a particular impact, you’ll have guidance’.
This residency will measure engagement on a custom-built, small-scale virtual tour (created by QAGOMA’s Digital Transformation Manager, Morgan Strong), in which Gallery visitors are invited to partake via their smartphones or other personal devices. The project will start with a handful of interactives, expanding to include more works and tour points as the Gallery digitises more of its Collection; and test how engaging in-person visitors find various digital features, including high‑resolution imagery, map-based explorations, image sliders, essays and other digital content.
Among the works on the virtual tour is one of the Gallery’s most popular paintings, Under the jacaranda 1903 by R Godfrey Rivers. Visitors can go deeper into the world of the painting via an image slider and essay. ‘It will be fascinating to see what type of detail people are interested in’, says Thompson, whose team will determine which digital features have visitors hooked. ‘We’ll be able to collect information about what they’re clicking on’, she says.
Esteemed Pintupi/Ngaatjatjarra artist Doreen Reid Nakamarra’s Untitled (Marrapinti) 2008 is also part of the tour. This painting is ‘normally displayed flat on a table in the Gallery’, says Thompson, ‘so the high-resolution digitisation allows visitors to pinch and zoom to see the detail in the work’.
RELATED: ‘Under the jacaranda’ image slider
DELVE DEEPER: The art of R Godfrey Rivers
In the international art collection, an interactive map will take visitors on a whirlwind tour of the world. Pinpointing the origins of works by Camille Pissarro, Spencer Gore, John Russell, Edgar Degas, Picasso and Toulouse-Lautrec, the map connects art-lovers to places ‘that can be difficult to imagine from so far away’, says Morgan Strong, allowing ‘more of an appreciation of [a work’s] context and how it was created’. In this way, a visitor can zoom in on Degas’s Trois danseuses a la classe de danse (Three dancers at a dance class) c.1888–90, then take a virtual trip to Paris to map out his artistic neighbours and contemporaries.
DELVE DEEPER: The art of Edgar Degas
The Digital Residency forms part of QAGOMA’s Collection Online digitisation project, which aims to make the Gallery’s entire Collection accessible virtually through photography, 3D imaging, timelapse records of installation and more. Collection Online is the largest component of the QAGOMA Digital Transformation Initiative, a wide-reaching program moving the Gallery towards a digitally integrated future.
Tonya Turner is a freelance writer. She spoke to Morgan Strong and Dr Kate Thompson in November 2021.
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Featured image: A visitor using QAGOMA’s interactive digital experience to dive deeper into the story of Judy Watson’s tow row 2016 / Photograph: Chloë Callistemon © QAGOMA