The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City announced in January that it had teamed up with Verizon to launched an immersive virtual art and gaming experience called the Met Unframed. This technological leap brings with it a new chapter in the gallery’s 150-year history since it was founded in 1870 to bring art to the American people. From its main site on Fifth Avenue, the Met has been doing so since it first opened in 1872 but never before with the possibilities that 5G Ultra Wideband provide.
The Director of the Met, Max Hollein, said that it had always been the mission since the art museum was conceived to connect people to art and new ideas as well as to one another. “[This is]… something we have found to be more important than ever before over the recent months of social isolation,” he said. Hollein went on to say that the Met Unframed would be able to bring the gallery’s collections to audiences wherever they happened to be. He said that the scheme would offer “an innovative viewing experience” through which anyone would be able to visit iconic spaces and artistic masterpieces, in a virtual sense. “Users will learn more about the works of art we have in a playful way,” he added.
According to the gallery, the Met Unframed will make use of augmented reality (AR) technology so that people will be able to bring the gallery’s art into their own surroundings. The Met Unframed is designed to augment the ways by which people can understand art outside of a formal gallery setting so they can experience and appreciate on their own terms. Although the project does not feature every single image in the gallery’s collection it was initially announced that almost 50 pieces drawn from across its huge collection would be given the AR treatment. Furthermore, the Met has made a number of its galleries available through the project with high-quality digitally rendering.
For its part, Verizon, the telecommunications conglomerate behind the use of the 5G technology that makes the Met Unframed function, said that it would enhance digital inclusivity for many people who may not have experienced art in such a personal way before. Andrew McKechnie, Verizon’s Chief Creative Officer, said that he thought leveraging the power of modern technology to provide extensive access and in-depth education would provide new opportunities for interactivity and shared experiences.
Exploring Digital Art
By visiting themetunframed.com, museum goers can explore the digital galleries on offer thanks to the AR scans which provide access to the Met’s artworks. As well as viewing the art, virtual visitors are also encouraged to play games that will unlock additional features in the AR-rendered versions of the art. Although both Verizon and the met have made a great deal of the fact that the latest 5G digital communications protocols will power the viewing experience, people with 4G devices will also be able to view all that is on offer. Indeed, as a part of this groundbreaking project, any compatible smart device will be able to access the Met Unframed until early February without charge.
The Met said the the whole project had been designed in partnership with a multi-disciplinary production company called Unit9 which operates in both Europe and the USA. Their experience was added to the Met’s own digital, educational and curatorial expertise to come up with the right sort of content mix. At the moment, virtual visitors to the Met are able to enjoy some of the most famous works of art in the museum’s collection. Those which have been selected for the project include the likes of Vincent Van Gogh, Jackson Pollock and Rembrandt van Rijn, for example. Other artists that are now available in a digital format include El Anatsui, Mark Bradford, Carmen Herrera and Margareta Haverman. Furthermore, some extremely large works, such as the magnificent Temple of Dendur which is housed in the Met’s Egyptian Wing have also been included.
About the author – Manuel Charr
Manuel Charr is a journalist working in the arts and cultural sectors. With a background in marketing, Manuel is drawn to arts organizations which are prepared to try inventive ways to reach new audiences.