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The Challenges of Art Search

At last week's Museum Computer Network annual conference, Matthew Israel, Director of The Art Genome Project, co-chaired a panel (with Emily Lytle-Painter from the J. Paul Getty Museum) on the subject of art search. 

The panel was titled "How to Discover Art? On the Current State, Hardships, and Potential of Art Search" and also included presentations by Dustin Wees of ARTstor and Adrian Cooper from Keepthinking. The entire panel (slides and audio) can be seen as of today via YouTube.

The panel sought to bring together representatives from traditional and non-traditional art institutions working on the challenge of art search, in all of its variations. Presentations focused on projects seeking to move beyond traditional art search terms, based solely on tombstone data, to make art more easily discoverable and accessible. Subjects included new visual and similarity search technologies; the challenge of finding works with no author or minimal tombstone data; the concept of access versus education; categorization projects such as large-scale tagging projects and taxonomies; the line between objective and subjective/interpretive search terminology; the hierarchy of meaning (the museum voice versus users' needs and expectations); the role of emotional and sensory reactions in search; the role of user-generated stories and experiences in museum education based on artists and objects; user expectations; crowdsourcing search terminology and user preferences; and what users want to be able to search for and with, versus what the museum wants or is able to create. 

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