Tate Art Maps Project

Have you ever wondered about what Monet was looking at when he painted his water-lilies? Or looked out the window while on holiday and pondered if the breath-taking view has been the inspiration for any works of art?

Now you can find the answers!

A collaboration between the University of Exeter, the Tate Gallery and the University of Nottingham has developed a multi-platform app that enables people to identify artworks associated with their current location.

The Tate ArtMaps app, is accessible on smartphones, tablets and the web, and allows people to explore more than 70,000 artworks in Tate’s collection and relate them to the places, sites and environments they portray or are associated with.

The app, which can also be used anywhere in the world, means you can discover artworks showing scenes that are associated with your current location and identify the artists viewpoint.

You can even mark the position of the work on the map, send comments or upload your own photos or videos of your surroundings, which will be added to the Tate’s information library.

Dr Rebecca Sinker, Tate’s Curator of Digital Learning, explained that the renowned gallery wanted to use people’s local knowledge to improve their information.

She said: “We don’t have enough staff to send around the world to investigate all the places a piece of art is connected to!”

Project leader Gabriella Giannachi, Professor in Performance and New Media at the University of Exeter, hopes the app will encourage more people to visit art galleries and engage with artworks in the collection that are not ordinarily on display.

She also hopes to reach people though social media who do not ordinarily visit museums.

She explained: “When you are encountering the work outside the context of the gallery and reflecting on its location you will start thinking about it in greater detail – which will bring you back to the gallery to find out more.”

But the work isn’t just about providing information about artworks; collaborative research student Cristina Locatelli, supervised by Rebecca and Gabriella, investigated how people use the app and how our emotions may change once we start to associate art to locations.

Rebecca said: “We are interested in the way people use the app. Are they using Art Maps just to fact-check or do people use it in more creative or personal ways - like to record memories?”

From technophobes to the smartphone savvy, from families to individuals; the team ran workshops to target different types of user and find out how they engaged with the Art Maps.

People with a good understanding of technology were involved in the first public engagement event. They were sent out into London with their smartphones to test the Art Maps app to help the team get a better understanding of how individual people engaged with the maps and how they could improve the design of the technology to make it more user-friendly.

After seeing how people used the app when they were alone, the team ran another public engagement event looking at how families and groups used Art Maps in a collaborative and creative way.

This workshop showed how groups of people can use Art Maps to learn more about the artwork, explore the associated locations and create their own art in response to the information given by the app.

The groups and families who took part in this activity felt that using the app promoted well-being and offered people a way to explore London and discover new places through art.

The project hasn’t just brought benefits for art lovers and families though; the Tate Gallery and the University of Exeter have formed a fantastic partnership too.

The project won a prestigious Exeter Impact Award, which recognises projects that have made a considerable difference.

Rebecca said: “We have really cemented our relationship with Exeter and winning an Exeter Impact Award was fantastic.

“The experience of working with Exeter has been great. “

The app will be open source and it is hoped other museums and galleries will develop their own maps to encourage people to get involved with and add to the information about their collections.

The collaboration began after a series of conversations between Horizon, Tate and the University of Exeter about how they might work together to develop the mapping of Tate’s collection.

As part of the legacy of this project, Gabriella secured an AHRC grant to create a digital archive of performance at Tate between 1960 to today for which she will work with Dr Jennifer Mundy from Tate Research, Catherine Wood - Curator of Performance at Tate and John Stack - Head of Tate Online.

ArtMaps, which was funded as part of Horizon by RCUK, started at the end of 2011; the ArtMaps site went live in February 2014.