The Artwork stories App was conceived as a functional tool, to recount the conservation and exhibition history of the artworks.
The goal is to compose a storytelling focused on what happens once works of art are completed: what occurs in the period of time between when they emerge from the artist’s workshop and the moment when we see them on exhibition in their current location? What tools can be used to decipher the traces left on their surface as they move through time?
Visitors often think such questions cannot even be posed. Integrations, restorations, additions, frames are just perceived at times as visual inconsistencies but never questioned. The perception is that museums and their artworks are entities immutable over time rather than the result of interventions and choices gradually implemented and constantly reformulated, choices that can be narrated and contextualized in time revealing what happens behind the scenes of museum institutions.
The contents of the The life of artworks App integrate the information offered by the museum and do not overlap with any other App containing general or guided tour information. They are aimed at a particular segment of visitors, those who are inquisitive and willing to linger a while longer in the museum halls to live a slow digital experience dedicated to a limited selection of works.
The proposed experience aims at enriching, certainly not replacing, direct observation: the App is an amplifier, a magnifying glass and the vehicle for specific in-depth knowledge, that can be consulted both before and after the visit, but that acquires full meaning only in the presence of the works, when the visitor’s gaze is led to focus on an experience of visual recognition.
To avoid diverting attention from the living body of its subject matter, the artwork is never reproduced in the contents of the App, in the belief that digital experience cannot and should not replace direct observation, but rather facilitate it while increasing visitor awareness.
Realized thanks to public funding, the App ensures a sustainable approach to technological devices: it is therefore characterized by simple graphics and a straightforward structure without any “special effects”, since it is designed on a modular platform, inexpensive and easy to implement, with a data entry system that does not require advanced programming skills.
Purpose of the project is to make the App instrumental in disseminating specialized knowledge, while also allowing young scholars to complete the entire communication process and come up with proposals for applications to be used by interested museums in the future: from archival and bibliographical research, to selected data from restoration diagnostics, to drawing up texts, to the realization of a digital product to be consulted in the museum.
This is the reason why the App, from a publishing point of view, is a series: structure and layout remain the same, but contents vary according to the different case histories and locations involved in the project, which will gradually be published in stores and be available for free download; a fixed format that also acts as a joint statement of intent.
The information architecture focuses on the metaphor of an individual’s lifetime and on the most important events in the “life” of the artworks, that predate us by several generations and will outlast us:
– an identity card / passport illustrates the artifacts’ personal data, their “age” and the distinguishing marks that, as wrinkles on a face, bear witness to the passage of time and to restoration interventions
• a section on “the way it was”, to be consulted in the presence of the artwork, invites the viewer, assisted by textual and audio information, to visually recognize the clinical history of the work through any sign of degradation and restoration, often with the aid of macro photographs and diagnostic images
• a section on “where it was”, on the other hand, shows the artwork’s movements in space, from the artists’ workshops to historic residences, from churches to museums
The App operations are simple and are based on the Neosperience platform that integrates beacon technology. A notification wakes the visitors’ smartphone inviting them to approach the work and investigate its vicissitudes.
Since knowledge is the first step in protection and conservation, the visitors’ visual attention and the time they will dedicate to in-depth exploration will represent the latest chapter in the life of the work of art. Finally, the possibility of sharing information on social networks, which is currently being implemented, will prolong the attention on the artwork and keep the memory of its history alive.