Will the Digital Age “Gigabyte” Museums away?

By: Katherine Medina

We live in a time where photo galleries are quite possibly more relevant than art galleries. To many, a screenshot from virtual tours holds as much value as the artifact itself. Given that the value of a postable screenshot is measured in likes, the epitome of true fine art stems from the revolutionary renaissance. 

During the European intellectual movement of the 14th century, also referred to as the Renaissance Age, the focus of arts brought such beauty that current day millennials can’t help but photograph every square inch of a painting, sometimes neglecting the real life atmosphere in front of them.The New York Times agrees that “in the presence of the “Mona Lisa” at the Louvre in Paris, digital photography, rather than looking at the painting, has become the primary experience.” As humanity fastens themselves to new technology, we must steer our focus upon manicured artifacts in real life by eliminating the screen lens. 

Beneath each art piece lies a story teeming with emotion. Sculptures such as Ugolino and His Sons By Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux, displayed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, exhibits a father imprisoned with his sons, sentenced into starvation. When I viewed the sculpture at The Met, I viewed the agony pricking at the father. His sons devoted their flesh to him, bringing conflict resulting in his nail biting. Ugolino’s gaze afar contemplates the consequences of his sins. This sculpture’s detailed anatomy differs from others such as the skeletal grasp instilling desperation along with Ugolino’s spine vaulting in a hunch as his palms rest on his grieving face. Speaking from experience, this exact sculpture further immersed me within the walls of New York’s most famous museum. 

I can say in acceptance that virtual tours bring accessibility to those who have difficulty traveling or are limited by COVID. The tours provide an assembly of prerecorded data with sound files of information about the artifact. Excluding human interaction and all the oohs and ahhs surrounding an art piece takes away from an individual’s full experience. Along with those limitations comes an increasing price tag. For instance, the Metropolitan Museum will host an Online ZOOM call titled “Art History Study Group—Collecting Inspiration…” This hour and a half limited seminar costs $55 which  is about the average monthly Wi-Fi bill for Americans. Wouldn’t you consider a museum ticket which can be as low as $12 that offers a widespread learning opportunity?

As the evolving world “portraits” a future of excellence, challenges such as evolving technology will withhold our history’s physical state of preservation. We must understand the seed of history through our own eyes and learn to never neglect the past, for through the past we emerge into the future of prowess.