Title:Making Sense of Modern Art at Five
Authors:Peter Samis
Publication:MW2004: Museums and the Web 2004

The year 2004 will mark the 5-year anniversary of the RFP for a new version of Making Sense of Modern Art (MsoMA) -- a Flash-based, kiosk- and CD-compatible Web program that includes a Web-based authoring and publishing tool component "Pachyderm" to enable its ongoing development. In those years, we have seen the rise and fall of the dot-com tsunami, the loss of one of our primary consulting partners, and the brief eclipse of our own program as economic hard times hit home. Now, thanks to bridge funding from outside sources and a major IMLS online leadership grant, we have been able to expand Making Sense of Modern Art to its full anticipated scope, with in-depth treatment of artworks from Matisse's Femme au chapeau (1905) to Louise Bourgeois's Nest (1994), a full and varied set of conceptual Comparisons Across Time, and Themes including "Artists as Rulebreakers" and "Self and Society." From the beginning, we understood Making Sense as a new way of writing art history: it was conceived as a living, multi-level approach to artworks through video and a variety of interactive screen types that mirror ways of understanding visual objects. Over the years, the program's development has necessitated the creation of a set of processes and procedures for research, asset management, rights negotiation/tracking, and media production. This paper/presentation will both describe the technical systems we have developed and demonstrate the rich content outcomes that have resulted from more than four years of sustained effort. It will also describe three current outgrowths of the Making Sense of Modern Art program:

  • a dedicated MSoMA curriculum site meshing with California standards currently under development with teacher-collaborators
  • the authoring and publishing tool Pachyderm which, thanks to a recently announced grant from the IMLS, will be revised in collaboration with a network of college and university New Media Centers and then be offered freely to museums for their own future use
  • discovery tools and new interfaces developed for SFMOMA's website and its new Koret Visitor Education Center, providing easy access to the rich resources of SFMOMA's multimedia programs, most notably Making Sense and its offshoots, which were all initially programmed in metadata-resistant Flash 4 and 5!