Title:Learning About Leonardo
Authors:Steve Feld
Publication:MW2001: Museums and the Web 2001

Leonardo's enigmatic Mona Lisa portrait, painted in the 1500's, coupled with numerous researched museum links served as the cultural catalyst for an ongoing evolving inner city Bronx high school student web research project. Begun in 1997, as part of the ThinkQuest Challenge, for developing a collaborative web project focused around a particular problem construct "Why is the Mona Lisa Smiling?" in partnership with peers from Borlange Sweden initially reacted, responded and reflected on Lillian Schwartz's research about the identity of Mona Lisa. Schwartz's contention, that Mona was Leonardo himself, led the students to include museum resources as part of their scientific inquiry into the validity of Schwartz's compelling thesis. The inner city Bronx HS students who created the web site had little if any personal experiences visiting actual Museum Resources in culturally rich NYC; but through the research process involved in investigating Schwartz's theory, students became online virtual museum visitors, Among the Museum Web Sites they toured and integrated within the project were: Getty Museum, Boston Science Museum, Science and Technology Museum of Milan, The Vatican, The Exploratorium, Franklin Institute and The Smithsonian Institution. In turn, the students museum explorations enriched and expanded their initial Why is the Mona Lisa Project, which grew to include further aspects of Leonardo's talents visions and Inventions and connections to other artists and scientists. These were identified in the Museum collection through virtual museum visits. Indeed in May 2000, when Microsoft issued its NYC Beyond 2000 Challenge, the Bronx HS Students confidently selected the arts arena as the content area for their ArtiFAQ 2100 Web Project. They were able to use museum web resource to address the challenge by using museums to look back in Art History. The then built on the achievements of art history to predict art social trends 2100. These predictions are presented in the form of Digital Art Creations.