Thursday, November 20, 2014

Philippe de Montebello on iPads vs. Museums: "You are experiencing nothing"

Philippe de Montebello: Museums vs. iPads

by Travis Simpkins

     As museum attendance dwindles at varying intervals of speed, many institutions are exploring new ways of bringing technology into the galleries in an effort to grab the attention of 21st Century visitors: most notably with the use of iPads. Some argue the benefits of appealing to younger audiences with fast-moving pixels, while others point out the disservice it creates by adding needless distraction and dumbing down the aged institutions. It is a double-edged sword. On one hand, iPads can compliment exhibitions, and often provide greater depth of information than traditional labels. On the other hand, some museums are going overboard… actually moving original works of art to storage, to make room, and replacing them with too many digital screens. 

     Philippe de Montebello, Director Emeritus of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, has some interesting and pointed thoughts on the subject. At a Q&A session, an audience member praised the new technology, particularly the great zoom capabilities of digital photography, and experience it provides in being able to see the objects much closer than ever before. Montebello's response was direct and on point, stating that when playing with an iPad instead of viewing an original, "You are experiencing nothing. It's a simulacrum, lacking the virtue of authenticity." He went on to brilliantly explain the virtues and psychological implications of true history and the "presence" of original works of art that cannot be duplicated… no matter how many pixels are on the digital display.

     It's an ongoing debate, surely one that won't be resolved anytime soon. Perhaps a balance between the old and new can be achieved...

Philippe de Montebello on the Museum vs. iPads