Published June 29, 2020 by Bowdoin College Museum of Art

Faculty and Student Digital Collaborations During the Past Spring Semester at the Museum of Art

An example of new, non-visual descriptive language for a painting in the Museum, developed by the students.

An example of new, non-visual descriptive language for a painting in the Museum, developed by the students.

The BCMA is excited to highlight the work of classes this past semester that made the most of a difficult situation as the College transitioned to remote-learning by partnering with the Museum on exciting digital projects.

Students in the class “Database Design & Applications” (CSCI 2340), offered by Stacy Doore, visiting assistant professor of computer science, investigated a series of questions and challenges related to issues of accessibility. They spent the semester developing new resources for blind and low-vision visitors, working especially with the Museum’s collection of Old Master paintings and sculptures. The course, designed to engage students with solving ‘real-world problems while exploring database design and development,’ has worked closely with the Museum over the past two years.

This year, the students focused their efforts on developing strategies to deliver information about works on view in the Bowdoin gallery and enabling non-visual navigation and exploration of the space. Among the outcomes were a prototype database developed by the students using open-access information and images provided by the Museum, an ADA compliant website, and a virtual tour of the Bowdoin gallery. The students also researched and developed new non-visual descriptive language forseveral works in the gallery. The solutions developed by the students point the way towards improved accessibility and Universal Design. The Museum is excited to continue this important work in the future.

The “landing page” for the online exhibition “Sepectacle in Antiquity and Beyond.”

Also this spring, the students in visiting assistant professor of classics Ambra Spinelli’s archaeology course “Spectacle” (ARCH3320) curated an online-exhibition in partnernship with the Museum and hosted online by the Classics Department.

Called Spectacle in Antiquity and Beyond, the exhibition examines art and artifacts related to popular entertainment and theater, athletic competitions, and military parades in the ancient world and their renaissance and modern echoes. The students spent the first half of the semester meeting weekly in the Museum’s Zuckert Seminar Room to select and study objects from the collection. After the break, when the campus transition to remote-learning, the students met online to craft and revise exhibition text and collaborated with Museum staff to develop a new template for curricular exhibitions online. While the Museum has previously developed online features and components for many exhibitions, “Spectacle” represents the first born-digital exhibition curated with the Museum’s collections. Learn more about the development of the exhibition in this Bowdoin News article.

The Museum also debuted an online version of the exhibition Presence of the Past: Art from Central and West Africa this spring, based on the work of David Gordon, professor of history, and his students during the fall semester. Together, these online offerings represent an exciting new page in academic initiatives at the Museum.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Bowdoin students, together with faculty like Doore, Spinelli, and Gordon, continued to think “outside the box” and lead the way in developing creative new ways to share the Museum’s resources with diverse audiences on campus and off. The Museum is glad to partner with our campus collaborators, and grateful for all their research, care, and curiosity for our collections!

Sean P. Burrus
Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Curatorial Fellow