Montclair Art Museum’s Centennial Audio Initiative: 100 Years, 100 Voices

mam matisse like
Janet Taylor Pickett, Me and Matisse, 2001, portfolio containing 8 hand-colored etchings with digitally manipulated images. Montclair Art Museum: Museum purchase; funds provided by Marjorie Rich.

I love visiting museums, and I never turn down the audio tour–free or not. When I can spend the bulk of my time gazing at the works of art, rather than reading all the little descriptive wall labels, I seem to enjoy myself so much more.

The Montclair Art Museum (MAM) is taking this experience one step further and asking visitors to participate in a crowd-sourced audio tour project by recording a comment about their favorite work of art.

Petra Pankow, the museum’s director of education, talked with Baristanet about MAM’s Centennial audio initiative: 100 Years, 100 Voices.

Can you explain more about how the project works?

Sure. Just select a favorite piece from the 100 Works for 100 Years show, and record why you selected it and your own interpretation of the artwork. The recording will then be used as an audio segment for the public to access while touring the exhibit.

How do visitors record their audio segment?

Visit the Centennial Lounge located in MAM’s second floor elevator lobby for a directory of all tour stops. It also includes instructions on how to dial in on your cell phone to hear audio segments from the community. You call 973-582-0669 and dial 0#, then follow recording prompts.

Willie Cole, Mother and Child, 2002, sheet metal and plastic. Montclair Art Museum: Museum purchase; Acquisition and Collectors Forum Funds, 2002.6. Courtesy of artist.
Willie Cole, Mother and Child, 2002, sheet metal and plastic. Montclair Art Museum: Museum purchase; Acquisition and Collectors Forum Funds. Courtesy of artist.

Who can participate?

The project is open to absolutely everyone, young or old, local or from out of town, first-time museumgoer, and longstanding member alike. Participants who have already contributed include MAM curator Gail Stavitsky, Montclair-based artist Tom Nussbaum, Newark-based artist Willie Cole, and a number of MAM docents. Definitely all of your readers are cordially invited to participate!

What’s the deadline?

There’s no deadline. In fact, this is an ongoing project, which will only conclude when the show does, in the fall of 2014.

When will the recordings be available to the public?

Recordings are already available via the directory in the Centennial Lounge of the museum. They will continue to be added to, and will be noted on individual labels below the works as well. I hope the project will expand considerably before the museum’s birthday party on January 15th.

How did you get the idea to crowd-source the project?

MAM has a longstanding interest in involving the local community. The Centennial offered a perfect opportunity to ask visitors to contribute their individual perspectives and voices by responding to works in our collection in celebration of the Museum’s 100th birthday. To do it in the format of a crowd-sourced audio project, based on MAM’s cellphone audio guide system, seemed fitting and accessible both in terms of listening and recording.

Is there anything else you’d like us to know?

George Inness, Delaware Water Gap, 1857, oil on canvas. Montclair Art Museum: Gift of Mrs. F.G. Herman Fayen in memory of Mr. Fayen, 1930.2.
George Inness, Delaware Water Gap, 1857, oil on canvas. Montclair Art Museum: Gift of Mrs. F.G. Herman Fayen in memory of Mr. Fayen.

As a museum educator, I am particularly interested in crowd-sourcing because it offers an opportunity to present alternative viewpoints – complementing and supplementing that of museum curators. And to engage artists, the museum staff, as well as everyone from small children to participants in our Creative Aging Initiative.

As a community museum, we enjoy seeing visitors take ownership of the works in the collection and encourage them to share why they like them, how they feel moved by them, and how works of art can activate memories and associations.

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