New site sheds light on MIT's hidden art treasures

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The List Visual Arts Center has just made MIT's public art collection more accessible to the public with a new web site,

Inspired by MIT's OpenCourseWare program, the new List site, launched Feb. 19, is designed to offer people who may not be able to visit campus a chance to see its art collection and to use List Center materials, according to List Director Jane Farver.

"Education is a major part of the List Center mission, and the staff wants the collection and center brochures, press materials and lectures to be widely available. We are grateful to the Institute of Museum and Library Services for making the new web site's interactive map of MIT's public art collection possible. The site has just begun, and we'll continue to devote time and resources to improving it," Farver said.

Named in 2006 as one of America's 10Best Campus Art Collections by the Public Art Review, the MIT collection includes works by the world's most prominent artists--Pablo Picasso, Auguste Rodin, Alexander Calder--and architects, placed amid buildings by such notable architects as Alvar Aalto, Frank Gehry and I.M. Pei.

But locating these works on MIT's campus presented a problem: some are outside and some inside buildings; some works are large; some, small enough to escape notice.

List's solution is a web site that tracks arts events, displays images from current exhibitions and has, as its innovative centerpiece, an interactive, searchable campus map of MIT's public art collection.

The map looks like the usual MIT campus map, but it's rich with arts information. Click on "search for," and a list offers names of artists and architects whose work is in the Institute collection and on public view. Click on a name--say, painter Jennifer Bartlett--and a yellow dot pulses in NW30, where her work, "Overhill Road, Shawnee Mission," hangs.

Other search functions include clickable thumbnail photos of art works and buildings and additional windows containing biographical information on artists and architects.

In the future, site users will be able to download streaming audio of the List Center's archive of lectures, artist talks and other educational programs, Farver noted.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on March 5, 2008 (download PDF).

Topics: Arts, Campus buildings and architecture

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