At the end of 2014, the Museum of Modern Art launched Object:Photo, a new website focusing on the Thomas Walther Collection, a group of 341 photographs given to the museum in 2001. While the images are available in a gallery for general viewing, the museum, with funds from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, created a fascinating website that is “unprecedented in its functionality, providing virtual access to the objects in exceptional depth, along with wide-ranging scholarship on the photographs’ historical context and significance.”
The website uses visualization modules that allow the viewer to, for example, map the photographs, compare them by technique or material, or see when and where the lives of photographers represented in the collection intersected. “Built to visually express the deep set of individual data points gathered for each picture or artist in the collection, these visualizations showcase the geographic and material scope of the collection as well as the intertwined networks that fostered the creative innovation of photography in this era. Most of all, however, they present each user with the opportunity to pursue his or her own questions, discovering historical and material relationships that may open further paths of inquiry and thus foster the next generation of scholarship on modern photography.”
Additionally, there are scholarly essays and information on the conservation of the photographs. But it’s the interactive visualization of data that is so exciting to see produced here. This website is one of hopefully many that will provide interesting and new modes for accessing art historical data and its interpretation.