Museums and AI network

May 15, 2019 - Published by

My interest in researching about museum data has taken me to a new project. Last year I got an email from Oonagh Murphy, Lecturer in Arts Management at Goldsmiths, who I met a few years ago in the UK while we were both doing our PhD. There was an opportunity to apply for an AHRC grant. Its networking scheme provides funding opportunities for UK-US research networks focused on digital scholarship in cultural institutions. We were successful in our application and therefore, we have created the “Museum and AI network” to bring together a range of senior museum professionals and prominent academics to develop the conversation around AI, ethics and museums. The museums participating in this project include The Metropolitan Museum of Art, American Museum of Natural History, National Gallery, Science Museum, Cooper-Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum, Wellcome Collection, among  others.

Collection data and AI

This year we will be doing a series of industry workshops at Goldsmiths (London) and Pratt Institute (New York) to discuss the key parameters, methods and paradigms of AI in a museum context. A conversation that will help to inform funders and senior managers about the opportunities and challenges this technology poses for the sector. AI is becoming an increasingly pressing concern for many large museums who are beginning to experiment with its potential to provide new ways to engage with audiences, visitors, art and objects.

AI technologies including machine learning, predictive analytics and others, bring exciting possibilities of knowing more about visitors and collections. However, these technologies also raise important ethical questions for museums. With an increasing awareness and regulations about data usage in wider society, museums, must approach AI with both caution and fervour. As such exploring, critiquing and understanding the ethical implications of AI within a museum context is increasingly becoming a pressing need for museums.

This network creates a forum to facilitate these core questions, with a view to influencing museum practice in this area for years to come, the network will create an ethically robust professional framework, to support museums who are keen to engage with the possibilities of these technologies, develop new audiences and increase access to their collections.

We will be posting the results of our research project on this website: https://themuseumsai.network/

Oonagh Murphy and Elena Villaespesa

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