When visitors step into the new Harvard Art Museums, they’ll experience not just the transformation of our building but also a reconception of what the museums have to offer students, faculty, and the public. Just one example of this kind of thinking is the new space known as the Lightbox Gallery.
Nestled directly under the stunning glass roof, the Lightbox Gallery contains “building blocks” that allow us and collaborators to present information about the museums’ collections in innovative and imaginative ways, including through digital projection. Jeff Steward, director of the museums’ Digital Infrastructure and Emerging Technology department, describes it as a “public R&D space.”
Data, algorithms, and digital technologies can all be used to tell interesting stories about our collections, and the Lightbox Gallery serves as a public venue for this very kind of research.
“This is a place where we can experiment with new visual metaphors and expose the data behind our collections,” said Steward. “It’s where we can project our collections as universes, solar systems, and constellations and where we can unravel the history of objects and create interactive timelines of movement, exposure, and access.”
By its very nature, the Lightbox Gallery is experimental and can fulfill multiple purposes. Visitors might browse the museums’ 250,000 objects all at once, see aggregated collections from different angles, or examine hidden details related to a work’s creation that can be captured only by radiography. The dynamic space could also feature works by artists who use digital technology as their medium.
The Lightbox Gallery allows for collaboration with partners from across Harvard’s campus. For instance, the museums have teamed up with metaLAB—a research unit dedicated to innovation and experimentation in the arts, media, and humanities—to develop the inaugural Lightbox Gallery configuration and application experience. Harvard students and faculty will also be able to take advantage of this unique space.
We hope this new type of gallery experience will unlock for all visitors surprising opportunities for exploration and investigation. Come see for yourself just one way that the museums have been transformed to meet 21st-century needs.