museum of fine arts’ new wing: the visit

MFA Entrance

entrance to the museum of fine arts, november 19, 2010. one day until public opening of art of the americas wing.

This final project began in a very un-projecty way: with an escape from new york and the daily grind of cafe hopping and homework to visit some friends in Boston. Being the museum-ophile that I am, I already knew that the Museum of Fine Arts was conveniently opening up a brand new, $504 million addition during my time in Boston. Naturally, a visit to check it out was on the top of my list of to dos.

Since I spend my days and my intellectual energy analyzing and learning about every possible aspect of the exhibition of art in the non-profit realm, I am always on the prowl for untapped sites to unleash my critical eye. At the time of the visit, I was actually knee-deep in researching the issue of exhibiting cultures. The only article I had read about the Museum of Fine Arts’ new Art of the Americas wing was about a) the size of its price tag and b) that it was reevaluating the entire definition of “American” art, and integrating Native American, Canadian, and Latin American art in the new wing’s galleries.

The day of my visit to the MFA was actually the day before the wing opened to the public, and was technically only open to members for a special preview. My boyfriend wisely encouraged me to just see if the museum would let us into the members’ preview on the sole basis of my AAM membership. Amazingly enough, it worked, and we skipped on off to the wing like kids who had managed to get away with something to join all the Bostonian museum-supporters in an advance view of the new half-billion dollar addition.

I went into my exploration with the wing with the intention of examining the new take on the canon of American art. But, from my visit, I ended up spending more thought and time in exploring and participating with all the interactive and technology-laden elements scattered all over the wing. My partner and crime and I spent 5 hours on the four floors of the new wing, checking out the art, playing with the 16 touchscreens scattered over ten of the new galleries.

mark/touchscreen

exploring conservation issues at one of the "behind the scenes" galleries' touchscreens.

The touchscreens were incredibly high-tech, and rather astonishing – some featured educational elements and others were more geared towards creative interactions, such as creating your own porcelain plates from patterns or your own version of a Georgia O’ Keefe. The new wing also had the budget (not to mention the foresight) to create four entire galleries dedicated to a “behind the scenes” approach – to the artwork, the museum, and the creation of the new wing. These galleries had video installations, touchscreens, games, and other educational elements to the degree that I have never before seen in a museum.

After four floors, a pit stop for some cafeteria food, and numerous pictures snapped, we were kicked out for the prep to begin on the opening night gala, which sadly, my AAM membership couldn’t quite get us into. I left the museum with many thoughts about all the new things I had taken in and simply amazed at what the MFA had managed to do with the new wing, in terms of integrating educational and interactive elements seamlessly into its exhibition design.

Only afterwards did I start to really think about just how innovative the wing was, and how it creation and finalized form incorporated nearly every issue I’ve been studying the past semester. In every class, I have read about and discussed the current trend in arts institutions to present artwork in ways to allow for visitor engagement and edification, as well as the new uses of social media and technology to reach new, wider audiences. I decided that the MFA was the perfect case study to apply all these issues. For this case study, I am exploring further – diving in deep to examine the elements that made the wing feel successful to me on my visit. this blog will serve as my platform for both presenting and perhaps more fully organizing and understanding the information that I find about the creation of the new Art of the Americas wing. Perhaps in this new approach to a research term “paper,” I will learn additional things about the ever-evolving, share- focused trends in media and technology, as well.

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