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Eileen Harakal

Kathleen Henesey Cardoza

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Art Institute Presents:

Cleopatra: A Multimedia Guide to Art

 

The First Integration of Computer Technology in a Permanent Collection Gallery

Spanish Subtitles and Closed Captioning Available

 

The Art Institute of Chicago recently unveiled Cleopatra, an interactive touchscreen computer program in its Galleries of Ancient Art: Egyptian, Greek, Roman, and Etruscan, on March 3, 1997. Cleopatra represents the first time the Art Institute has integrated computer technology as an interpretive tool in a permanent collection gallery. The program increases the understanding of the ancient art collections, adds broad cultural and historical context to the works of art, and inspires close observations of these works, while providing visitors--whether computer expert or novice--with an enjoyable and engaging museum adventure. Cleopatra is made possible by the generous support of The Getty Grant Program and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Cleopatra showcases 18 works from the Art Institute's collection and relates them in a multimedia program using easily accessible features such as video, maps, a timeline, and a glossary. It allows visitors to follow paths of inquiry through time, culture, or media.

A home screen of the 18 objects acts as the main navigational device. When an image is touched, a short statement about the object appears. For each object the viewer can choose from a selection of 2-3 minute videos covering topics such as the life of Alexander the Great, Greek symposia, the circulation of ancient coins, or the purpose of models in Egyptian tombs. Live-action demonstrations show such ancient techniques as vase-making, glassblowing, and bronze casting. Additionally, computer graphics techniques, such as three-dimensional modeling, are employed to explain the manufacture, use, and decorative elements of these works of art.

An exciting opportunity for visitors is a close-up tool that allows them to highlight and magnify the entire surface of the Mummy Case of Paankenamun. Visitors can view an X-ray and rotating reconstruction of the mummy's head made from recent CT scans done at Rush Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center.

Cleopatra is entirely bilingual. Visitors can switch from English to Spanish at any time. The videos have subtitles in Spanish and English (for the hearing impaired), and include "tours" through sites such as Egyptian tombs, the Nile River, Roman villas, or Greek cemeteries. Cleopatra contains many other bilingual elements such as a glossary that pronounces, defines and spells important ancient terms in both languages. The timeline, maps, and object labels are also bilingual.

Cleopatra is the result of a collaborative effort by the museum's departments of Imaging; European Decorative Art and Sculpture, and Classical Arts; Publications; and Museum Education. All technical aspects-including image acquisition and enhancement, video production, and hardware and software development-were directed by the Imaging department. The curatorial staff oversaw the art historical research and writing, assisted by antiquities scholars. The Publications and Education departments ensured the quality and accessibility of Cleopatra's educational content.

The Art Institute completed the reinstallation of its collection of Egyptian, Greek, Roman, and Etruscan objects-which had previously been represented by only a few dozen works of art-in April 1994. The new and expanded display emphasizes the strengths of the collection: magnificent Egyptian and Roman sculpture, especially from the Old Kingdom and Hadrianic periods; elegant Greek vases and impressive Egyptian and Roman bronzes; a renowned collection of ancient glass; and a superb, but almost unknown coin collection. The reinstallation gives the public a closer look at the major civilizations that bordered the Mediterranean Sea in ancient times. By viewing objects created by these cultures, the visitor is able to see the similarities and differences in the religion, economy, hegemony, and art of these civilizations.

The Art Institute is familiar with the fine art of technology, having received two first-place awards from the American Association of Museums for the family oriented CD-ROM With Open Eyes: Images from The Art Institute of Chicago, which is on view in the Kraft Education Center and available for sale in the Art Institute's Museum Shop.


Museum Hours: 10:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday,

Friday; 10:30 a.m.-8:00 p.m. Tuesday; 10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. Saturday; 12

noon-5:00 p.m. Sunday and holidays. Regular suggested admission:

adults, $7.00; children, students, and seniors, $3.50; members always

free. Tuesdays free to all, except for certain special exhibitions,

which may require full or extra admission fee. The Art Institute of

Chicago is a museum in Chicago's Grant Park.


 

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