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Digital

The latest digital content from museums, galleries and heritage
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One paradox of living in our intensely networked era is that it is often our most recent past that is most vulnerable. Your childhood photo albums are safe in your nan’s attic, but your Flickr account has been trashed, those banging tunes you put on MySpace were lost when you forgot your password, and that hard drive with your emails on went the way of all technology.
So too with internet art. When artists discovered the internet in the 1990s as a means of making art, they were experimenting with fragile new tools and software that would soon disappear or be upgraded beyond recognition. Without funding or support, their work also often disappeared.
New York-based digital arts organisation Rhizome has undertaken the hefty task of rescuing and preserving these works, re-presenting them in this online history of digital art. 
Net Art Anthology, which accompanies a recent exhibition at New York’s New Museum, features key works, including Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industry’s text-heavy films with their electro-jazz soundtracks; Olia Lialina’s My Boyfriend Came Back from the War, which fractures the screen into frames, as a relationship disintegrates; Jon Rafman’s Nine Eyes of Google Street View, which captures the disturbing amid the mundanity of streetscapes; and Mongrel’s race-bending Photoshop hack Heritage Gold. History is brought up to date with recent works, such as Porpentine Charity Heartscape’s interactive text adventure, Psycho Nymph Exile.
The works are clearly interpreted and contextualised with accessible text panels, but the real magic is in recreating the experiences on the technology of the period. Net Art Anthology brings Flash players, Netscape Navigator and even Windows 98 back to life. Archiving internet art also recreates the experience of the historical internet as you take a journey through recent history in the safety of your own browser.

WebsiteParis Museums Collections portal Everybody loves a good commons drop. All the value of museums and collections’ careful cataloguing and digitisation is released into the public domain: high-resolution images for all to use, in everything from classroom presentations to Etsy prints.

Fourteen major Paris museums have obliged with another major release of more than 100,000 digital images of paintings, drawings and photographs, including works by Rembrandt, Cézanne and Delacroix. 

The site has a Creative Commons licence, which is the gold standard, and the digitised images can be directly downloaded in eye-wateringly high resolution.

The website itself, however, feels massively over-engineered, featuring “virtual exhibitions” and thematic selections with lengthy text and poor links back to the catalogue records.  A complicated, intricately faceted search function and an excess of “share” widgets make it a slightly overwhelming experience.

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Nevertheless, browsing by similar colours is still something you don’t see enough of in collections searches, and the site makes more of an effort to present a truly multilingual experience (French, English and Spanish) than you would find with a similar UK or US project.

Hopefully, the images themselves will find a way into open repositories such as Wikimedia Commons. The true pleasure and value of a project such as this is its contribution to a wider open digital culture of unrestricted access to our common cultural heritage. 

VisualisationThe Evolution of European Motorways 1920-2020 This is one for the tarmac nerds, lacking only a Kraftwerk soundtrack to perfect a transportation into the world of Europe’s superhighways. 

Hit play and watch the German Reichsautobahn network evolve; Yugoslavia blaze a path with the Brotherhood and Unity Highway; the Preston Bypass bypass Preston; and the proposed Russia Meridian highway that will link Hamburg with Shanghai. 

Commissioned to accompany the Victoria and Albert Museum’s Cars exhibition, this is all that an interactive data visualisation should be: a timeline that you can play like a movie, pause and zoom in to learn more, or jump to your favourite motorway year.  As elegant as a Mercedes C-class on the A8 to Saint-Tropez. 

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