2014 speaker: A.L. McMichael, The Metropolitan Museum of Art & The CUNY Graduate Center

A.L. McMichael is a PhD candidate in Byzantine art history at The Graduate Center, CUNY, and a research fellow at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. She has been active in various GC Digital Initiatives—including the New Media Lab and the Digital Fellows program—for several years. She’ll be presenting–alongside Meredith Brown–a lightening talk titled “Upcycling:” Building a Professional Online Presence Through Digital Publishing” (more details here).


What is your current involvement with “digital art history”?

In terms of my personal work, I’m interested in how we convey spaces and rituals to museum-goers and students, how to better merge a study of places with material culture objects. Digital projects can go a long way toward this—3D models, interactive maps and timelines, reconstructions, virtual reality are all being used to great effect. But how do we do this without distracting from the monuments and objects themselves—what’s the right balance?

I’m also excited about the possibilities of incorporating digital elements into art history dissertations in a manageable way. My dissertation is on rock-cut architecture in Byzantine Cappadocia (central Turkey), and I’m creating a digital catalog of monuments as part of it. Another ongoing project, Documenting Cappadocia, is my website on a similar topic, which I’ve used for experimenting with tools, presentation, and information architecture.

In the grander scheme of things, I look forward to the day we drop the “digital” for a more inclusive definition of art history and all its methods.

What is one of the most pressing issues in the field of “digital art history” today?

Open access and Linked data! Not only how institutions can make their resources open and connected, but how small projects and individuals (i.e. dissertations) can contribute to public scholarship through networks of likeminded researchers.

Where do you see innovations happening?

I see innovations happening when projects consider sustainability from day one, often with the help of librarians or archivists. All art historians can learn a lot from archaeologists. So many of them are thinking about best practice for recording data, sharing it, working collaboratively, interpreting it for various audiences. Open Context is a good example of this, and a number of other examples are found within ancient and medieval studies, specifically in the Linked Ancient World Data Initiative (LAWDI), wherein participants make a concerted effort to contribute and reuse data in order build interdisciplinary connections.

What’s the panel or issue you’d most like to see proposed for THATCamp CAA in Chicago?

We need to better train art historians (at all levels) to peer review digital projects, hopefully steering credit and funding toward more digital work moving forward.

Renee’s reflections on digital labor make me wonder if this issue can be intertwined with a discussion on how to evaluate digital scholarship.

Categories: General