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This post is another our series exploring the use of the New Media by museums throughout the world to fulfill their mission to make art accessible to the public. The Prado Museum joins an impressive and growing number of museums who have seized the challenges of displaying Fine Art in the New Media.* We continue to believe that museums are in the forefront of adapting New Media technology to their mission (see the blog piece, “e- Museums Leave e-Books in the Dust – A View from Two Different Centuries“).
The Prado Museum (Museo Nacional del Prado) is, of course, one of the world’s finest Art Museums.
According to Art Daily,
The Museo del Prado had more than 4.5 million visits to its website in 2012, which is a higher number than the record for actual visits to the Museum: 3 million in 2012. Within the context of the present economic crisis that has resulted in a decrease in visitor numbers to the Museum, the importance of this new initiative should certainly be assessed in the sense of its effectiveness as a means of promoting the Prado as an embodiment of universal culture profoundly associated with Spain. An additional factor is the enormous potential of the Spanish language (according to the Instituto Cervantes, it is spoken by more than 495 million people worldwide and is the second language by number of speakers in the world and the second for international communication
As described on the Museum’s website, the online Gallery provides
Access online to approximately 1000 works of the Museum’s collection (more than 5000 works available in spanish version). This data base will enlarge until it holds the complete collection. The Advanced Search engine facilitates consultation, using categories such as artist, title of work, subject, chronology and reference number.
THE PRADO IN THE DIGITAL AGE
There is a special kind of cool associated with the modern Spain, a blend of the past and the future, which conveys the sense of the “now.” Art Daily notes that, “In April 2008 the Museum presented the printed edition of The Prado Guide, which s a publication of a type traditionally produced by museums in the English-speaking
world. More than 240,000 copies are now in circulation.”
Now, in April, 2013 The Prado launched the first official app of the Museum: The Prado Guide for iPad.
The selection of the 400 principal works in the Permanent Collection encompasses the core of the Museum’s holdings. They are presented chronologically and grouped according to the most important international schools: Spanish, Italian, Flemish, Dutch, French, German and British, plus two sections on the collection of works on paper and on sculpture and the decorative arts.The selection of works reflects the striking differences between the schools and artists represented in the Prado, within which Velázquez occupies a key role, followed by Goya, El Greco, Titian, Bosch and Rubens.
The App also includes a selection of 50 masterpieces that can be viewed as large images, as well as numerous details of these works. The result allows the user to come much closer to the work than is possible in the Museum and to see the backs of triptychs and diptychs that are not visible in the galleries, including Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights, The Adoration of the Magi and The Haywain. These backs of paintings were recently the subject of an exhibition at the Museum entitled Closed Triptychs in the Museo del Prado. From Grisaille to Colour.
Another important extra feature is the 5 suggested thematic routes around the Museum: 50 Masterpieces, Velázquez, Venetian Painting, Princesses and Animals in the Prado. These routes allow visitors to locate works in the Museum, prepare a visit beforehand, further their knowledge of the collection with a thematic route or discover an enjoyable way of introducing the Museum to children through themes such as animals or princesses.
THE PRADO EXCELS IN THE USE OF THE NEW MEDIA
In past posts we have used the ideas of two experts to evaluate the effectiveness of a museum’s use of New Media technology.
Sandy Goldberg, of sgscripts, creates audio and multimedia experiences for a wide variety of platforms and for cross-platform use for museums in the US, UK and Europe. Her impressive list of clients include The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Tate Modern, The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston,Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and The Van Gogh Museum, among others. In the chapter she authored, “Content for all Kinds: Creating Content that Works On- and Off-Site Visitors,” from the book, Mobile Apps for Museums: The AAM Guide to Planning and Strategy (Ed. Nancy Proctor, The American Alliance of Museum Press, 2012), she advises, that museuems “use large ideas and themes as threads that can tie your content together no matter what the user’s path through it. Think about ideas that are seminal to your museum’s mission or collection. Take another step outwards and think about how those ideas can resonate in the larger intellectual and cultural spheres.”
Cliff Kaung, is design editor at Fast Company and the founding editor of Co.Design, winner of the 2011 National Magazine Award for best online department. He draws over 2 million readers a month. In his article in Fast Company, he points out that, “The most basic failing of so many design projects: Even as the designers go wild with the technology, they never stop to consider what anyone who doesn’t care about that technology would stand to gain. “
The Prado’s new app has met and exceeded these standards.
EVEN MORE USE OF THE NEW MEDIA
* We have written a number of posts on how museums have adopted the New Media technology to the purpose of making art accessible. These prior posts included the Van Gogh Museum, The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, both the Louvre and the Musee d’Orsay, ArtTube, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Australia., and the Cleveland Museum.