BY: JENNY FORD
Is there a more natural pairing than Drake and Renaissance art? It’s not a typical duo, but late last month the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Met) in New York City launched an online project that melded the two, combining their digitized collections with hip-hop lyrics.
The Hiphop Project, part of the Met’s media lab, uses the main words from hip-hop songs as key terms to search the museum’s digital collections. The songs were chosen from 13 artists, including the Notorious B.I.G., Missy Elliot, Jay-Z, and Kanye West.
|Homepage to the Hiphop Project. Source.|
CREATING LINKS OR MISSING LINKS
The project was the brainchild of Regina Flores Mir, a grad student at Parsons School of Design in New York. She was inspired after discovering that students in the Bailey Housing Project in Jamaica, Queens had never visited the Met despite being a subway ride away.
The hope is the website will engage nontraditional and younger audiences with the Met's collection. Sure, the search results don’t always match lyrics exactly but, as the website states, it’s getting viewers to explore the collection and view pieces they wouldn’t see otherwise.
|Tea service or public service? One of Jay-Z's objects. Source.|
I’m sure some would bock at this model – tying Jay-Z’s “Public Service Announcement” to images of tea services doesn’t seem to quite mesh. On top of this, none of the objects have captions to explain the connection to the lyrics, raising some concerns about reducing a single word from a song and attaching it to an un-associated art piece.
But, regardless of the critiques, is the Hiphop Project the new wave of what should be done with collections? We’ve known all along there is no such thing as the “general public”, but this really hits home in reaching out to those nontraditional audiences.
So, perhaps new communities require radical new narratives.
RADICAL ENTRY POINTS
Most of us are familiar with the unorthodox tours run by Museum Hack. As founder Nick Gray describes in his TEDx Talk (everyone should watch it), museums are boring… for most people, anyway. Personalized narratives are needed to engage audiences – a trend echoed in the Centre for the Future of Museums 2015 TrendsWatch guide.
Gray gives the example of delivering tours at the Met to “Finance Bros”. These are usually young guys in finance with a lot of disposable income, often dragged to the museum on unsuspecting dates. For these tours, Gray starts off by showing the art piece the museum paid the most money for.
|Some Museum Hack people. Source.|
Could hip hop be another entry point for a community to access the museum, providing entertainment before the education begins? Are there other entry points we’re missing out on that we’re just afraid to try? Or are these new narratives inadvertently oversimplifying our collections?
LEAVE YOUR THOUGHTS IN THE COMMENTS!