Finding new ways of making art visible
How does a painting sound like? That clearly seems like a weird question: paintings are made to be looked at! But what if a person is blind?
Visual descriptions are used to provide information to blind or visually impaired people. So it is not really enough to say that "this is a landscape painting, where you can see a lake under a pair of fluffy clouds and a dark forest on the horizon". It has to be so much more precise for the listener to truly get the correct visual image in his/her mind. But how does one make information about a painting more universally understandable? What is that we take for granted? How could that knowledge reach blind people?
We ventured out to see on how that might look like. As a part of this cooperation with Tartu Art Museum we now have a set of audio files of visual descriptions of Estonian paintings in Wikimedia Commons. Ten of them already existed before (on the museum website) and five were created as part of this initiative. We also got some paintings from Tiit Pääsuke and assembled a virtual exhibition on the topic mixing together the visuals and descriptions of them.
- How that worked?
- In the second part of 2020 Tartu Art Museum had a Tiit Pääsuke retrospective exhibition “Nostalgialess”. We got some of the reproductions of those paintings to Wikimedia Commons.
- Five paintings were selected for the production of visual descriptions (an example, "Swan Carpet", can be seen on the right). Within the next few months, a text was put together by a translator with the help of a blind consultant, who reviewed whether everything was indeed understandable. After a series of reviews and edits, this resulted in a text file.
- An audio narrator then took that text and produced an audio file.
- The results are now available on the museum web page and on Wikimedia Commons. There is also a virtual exhibition on Wikipedia.
As indicated on the last GLAM newsletter writing from Estonia: we are moving from the time of scarcity to the time of plenty. In the beginning, there was hardly anything in Wikimedia except almost endless possibilities to add new articles and upload images of all kinds. But as Wikimedia projects have grown and matured, new challenges arise. Like with millions of GLAM-related images, how can they be showcased or even made findable? We have mainly been looking at the potential content when thinking about our interaction with the GLAM sector, but maybe we might need to look more for inspiration on how to advance the sharing of knowledge. We already have the "wikiLibrary", and we are in a need of wikiMuseum, but what else could be there? What else is hidden in plain view and what could we be testing with?
360° panoramas of Estonian museums
We got our hand at the first 360° panoramas at the end of 2019. In 2020 the main focus was on 360 panoramics of vocational schools in Estonia and now we have our first sets of 360° panoramas of various museums. How does that look like:
Rakvere Castle and Vallimägi
View to the Estonian Aviation Museum
Cockpit of F-4 Phantom II
Estonian Mining Museum visitor center
Just make sure to look at the images in a 360° panoramic viewer. Example.
Panoramas were done by Lauri Veerde, who has made virtual tours for over ten years. He mostly uses Sony A7R III, Canon 8-15mm f/4 fisheye lens & Nodal Ninja panoramic head and usually shoots at 13mm in 6 directions + one down. Standard is 3 images in each position (+-2 EV) and so in total one panorama image consists of 21 photos. For post-processing he uses Lightroom, Ptgui, SNS-HDR, Photmatix, Aurora HDR, Photoshop, Topaz Labs plug-ins or whatever is needed.
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