Birmingham Museum of Art Introduces iPad App For A Close Look at Tiny Objects

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The Birmingham Museum of Art's first iPad app allows visitors to examine the tiny, intricate objects of its current exhibition "The Look of Love" in great detail and at up to twenty times their actual size. The iPad feature also gives visitors the otherwise rare opportunity to study the backs of the objects.

V.J. Graffeo uses 'The Look of Love' app to examine the exhibition on one of the Museum's complimentary iPads.

This app allows visitors to engage with these beautifully wrought objects in an entirely different way. Visitors can really see the delicacy and skill of the craftsmanship and the beauty of the painting in these very small objects.

The Birmingham Museum of Art announces the launch of its first app,'The Look of Love' optimized for the Apple iPad and designed to enhance visitors' exhibition experience. Now available for download worldwide through the Apple App Store, visitors will also find this app installed on each of the 20 complimentary iPads available for checkout at the entrance of the Museum's exhibition, The Look of Love: Eye Miniatures from the Skier Collection.

The app was created to supplement The Look of Love: Eye Miniatures from the Skier Collection, an exhibition curated by Graham C. Boettcher, PhD, the William Cary Hulsey Curator of American Art at the Museum, and the first major exhibition of lover's eye jewelry, on display at the Museum from February 7 - June 10, 2012.

Lover’s eyes are hand-painted miniatures of single human eyes set in jewelry and given as tokens of affection or of mourning, created in England during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Each object is quite small – many less than an inch wide – and is mounted in a case under Plexiglas. The iPad app allows visitors to see these tiny, intricate objects in great detail at up to twenty times their actual size. The iPad feature also gives visitors the otherwise rare opportunity to study the backs of the objects, many of which are adorned with human hair work, enamel decoration, or personal inscriptions commemorating a love or loss.

According to Sean Pathasema, the Museum’s Photographer and Project Manager for New and Emerging Technologies, “When our staff saw how small the objects were, and the incredible details on their backs, we knew we wanted to share that experience with visitors. This exhibition presented a perfect opportunity for us to introduce this new technology.”

Gail Andrews, the R. Hugh Daniel Director, commented, “We are so thrilled to present this new tool. This app allows visitors to engage with these beautifully wrought objects in an entirely different way. Visitors can really see the delicacy and skill of the craftsmanship and the beauty of the painting in these very small objects. We are constantly seeking ways to employ new technology that truly furthers our institutional goals of closer looking and deeper engagement with works of art. This project accomplishes that goal.”

The Look of Love exhibition and app showcase the collection of Dr. David and Mrs. Nan Skier of Birmingham. With only 1,000 lover's eye miniatures thought to exist worldwide, the Skier Collection is considered to be the largest of its kind, containing over 100 pieces, including rings, brooches, pendants, bracelets, and small boxes.

“We are so grateful to Dr. and Mrs. Skier, who helped inspire this interpretative app and funded its development and implementation,” says Andrews. “And I am continually impressed by the ingenuity and skill of our staff who create these new technologies for the Museum. I want to particularly thank Sean Pathasema for his work and creativity.”

The app was developed in house by Pathasema, James Williams, Museum Graphic Designer, and Tatum Preston, Museum Librarian and Content Manager for New and Emerging Technologies. Software consultant Paul Baker of PBICS LLC (Portland, OR) provided assistance for the project.

Related Materials and Programs

A catalogue featuring full-color images of the collection, edited with an essay by Boettcher and with essays by Elle Shushan and Jo Manning, accompanies the exhibition and app. The catalogue, published by D. Giles Limited, London, is available for sale in the Museum Store ($35, hardcover).

Trinket or Treasure, Saturday, February 25, is a day of jewelry appraisal featuring Gloria Lieberman, Vice President of Skinner Auctions of Boston. Appraisals will be held between 10am and noon, and again between 1pm and 4pm. Ms. Lieberman will deliver a public lecture at noon. Participants will pay a fee of $25 for up to two objects and $20 for each additional object.

About the Birmingham Museum of Art: Founded in 1951, the Birmingham Museum of Art has one of the finest collections in the Southeast. More than 24,000 objects displayed and housed within the Museum represent a rich panorama of cultures, including Asian, European, American, African, Pre-Columbian, and Native American. Highlights include the Museum’s collection of Asian art, Vietnamese ceramics, the Kress collection of Renaissance and Baroque paintings, sculpture, and decorative arts from the late 13th century to the 1750s, and the Museum’s world-renowned collection of Wedgwood, the largest outside of England.

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Cate McCusker
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