The touchscreen recently installed in the Thomson Collection of European Art (Gallery 107). Photo by Craig Boyko/Art Gallery of Ontario.
The Thomson Collection of European Art at the Art Gallery of Ontario includes about 900 objects, mainly northern European sculpture and decorative arts dating from the early Middle Ages to the mid-19th century.
In addition to the collection’s cornerstone artwork, Peter Paul Rubens’ The Massacre of the Innocents, it has both sacred and secular objects including a renowned group of medieval and Baroque ivories, as well as fine examples of silver, Limoges enamel, boxwood carving, medieval manuscripts, carved portrait medallions and nearly 100 portrait miniatures from the 16th to the 19th centuries. It’s a varied collection that captures visitors’ interest, and they’ve told us that they want to know more.
Staff from our Digital Services department worked hard to create a new entry point to the Thomson Collection, in the form of an interactive touchscreen. You’ll find the screen close to the AGO’s entrance (Gallery 107), a room that also contains two paintings (from the Thomson Collection’s Canadian works), a ship model and a vitrine full of small objects from the European Collection.
These objects and paintings represent the Thomson Collection’s European, Canadian and Ship Model components, and each object has a story behind it and reason, including why Ken Thomson collected and appreciated it. In addition to getting an introduction to Thomson and the legacy of his collection, visitors can learn about the objects in depth by selecting them on the touchscreen. They are also directed to other spaces in the Gallery with more of the same kind of object.
Photo by Craig Boyko/Art Gallery of Ontario.
How’d we do it?
The display screen is Microsoft’s 55-inch Perceptive Pixel touch display (learn more about it here). To get the project up and running, AGO photographers had to re-shoot each item using “focus stacking.” This process extends the depth of field in a shot (making more of it in sharp focus) without losing file data using multiple exposures and post-production software.
A folding knife with boxwood handle from the Thomson Collection of European Art. The image on the right — created using the photo-stacking technique — has an extended depth of field.
A shallow depth of field has always been an issue with macro photography. The objects included in the touchscreen project are almost all very small, so we adopted this photo merging or “stacking” software as a new approach. It allows the viewer to see these detailed objects more clearly than ever before.
What’s next? Our Digital team is full of ideas on how to make the experience even better, including enhanced way-finding and the ability to create personalized tours. We hope you’ll spend a few minutes with the touchscreen on your next visit. And if you’ve already had a chance to try it out, share your thoughts on the experience in the comments below.
Recorded: Jan. 15, 2014, at Jackman Hall, Art Gallery of Ontario
Artist-in-residence Sara Angelucci; writer and historian Matthew Brower, Mark Peck, Royal Ontario Museum Ornithology Technician; and Bridget Stutchbury, author and Professor of Ornithology at York University, gathered to discuss the extinction and endangerment of North American birds as well as art and society’s relationship with the natural environment. The talk was moderated by the AGO’s curator of Canadian Art, Andrew Hunter.
The discussion was followed by a three-course meal served in FRANK restaurant, specially prepared by executive chef Jeff Dueck in consultation with Sara Angelucci. The main dish featured a vegetarian “pigeon-less” pie to mark the 100th anniversary of the extinction of the passenger pigeon. The passenger pigeon, formerly one of the most abundant birds in North America, was pushed to extinction in 1914 due to habitat destruction and over hunting. Dinner and dessert were each paired with a choice of white or red Ontario wine.
Sara Angelucci is a Toronto-based visual artist who works primarily with photography, video and audio, exploring vernacular archival materials such as home movies, snap-shots and vintage portraits and their limited ability to convey the exact sense of a lived experience. Working with these images Angelucci seeks to reposition them in the present, shedding light on their broader context and histories outside of the frame.
Matthew Brower is a lecturer in Museum Studies in the Faculty of Information at the University of Toronto. He writes on issues in animal studies, the history and theory of photography and contemporary art. He is the Author of Developing Animals: Wildlife and Early American Photography (University of Minnesota Press 2010). He has curated exhibitions in historical and contemporary art including Mieke Bal: Nothing is Missing, Gord Peteran: Recent Works,The Brothel Without Walls, Suzy Lake: Political Poetics, and Collective Identity │Occupied Spaces.
Mark Peck is the Collection Manager in Ornithology, Department of Natural History, Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) in Toronto. He is also involved in museum exhibits and programs and field research in South America, New Jersey and the Hudson Bay Lowlands of northern Ontario. In addition, he is the coordinator of the Ontario Nest Records Scheme, the ROM liaison for the Ontario Bird Records Committee and the program director for the Toronto Ornithological Club. In his off hours he is an avid bird photographer, traveling extensively for both his profession and his hobby. He has authored or coauthored numerous scientific and popular articles on birds and hundreds of his images have been published in books, magazines and on websites. Mark has been with the ROM since 1983.
Bridget Stutchbury is a professor in the Department of Biology at York University, Toronto. She completed her M.Sc. at Queen’s University and her PhD at Yale and was a postdoctoral fellow at the Smithsonian Institution. Since the 1980s, she has studied migratory songbirds to understand their behaviour, ecology and conservation. Her current research focuses on studying the incredible migration journeys of songbirds to help halt the severe declines in many species. She serves on the board of Wildlife Preservation Canada and is the author of Silence of the Songbirds (2007) and The Bird Detective (2010).
Recorded: Jan. 8, 2014, at Jackman Hall, Art Gallery of Ontario
This talk features former artist-in-residence Sara Angelucci in conversation with artists Spring Hurlbut and Marla Hlady about their work, points of convergence and departure.
Sara Angelucci (born Hamilton, Ont.) is a Toronto-based visual artist who works primarily with photography, video and audio, exploring vernacular archival materials such as home movies, snap-shots and vintage portraits and their limited ability to convey the exact sense of a lived experience. Working with these images Angelucci seeks to reposition them in the present, shedding light on their broader context and histories outside of the frame.
Spring Hurlbut (born Toronto, Ont.) is a Toronto-based artist whose installations, sculptures and photography explore life, death and the human condition. Hurlbut, through her sculptures, which incorporate bone, egg shells, and claws, her photographs of human ash and her solemn monochrome portraits, encourages the acceptance of one’s own mortality and attempts to find the beauty in this inevitability.
Marla Hlady (born Edmonton, Alta.) lives and works in Toronto as a sound and kinetic sculpture artist, exploring ways of experiencing sound through spatial and social contexts. Hlady’s pieces deal with the nature of sound, often materializing it for viewers and reorienting their connection to everyday auditory experiences.
On Jan. 2, 2014, artists Shary Boyle, Vanessa Dunn, Petra Collins and Aminah Sheikh got together on stage at AGO First Thursdays for a conversation entitled “21st-Century Art: Why Feminism Still (Really) Matters.” The talk was moderated by Nicola Spunt and presented by After School and Hazlitt. For those who couldn’t be here, an audio recording and links to media coverage:
Recorded: Thursday May 9, 7 pm in Jackman Hall
Contemporary art in the early twenty-first century is often discussed as though it were a radically new phenomenon unmoored from history. Yet all works of art were once contemporary to the artist and culture that produced them. In this lecture, based on his recent book What Was Contemporary Art?, Art Historian Richard Meyer reclaims the contemporary from historical amnesia, exploring episodes in the study, exhibition, and reception of early twentieth-century art and visual culture.
Richard Meyer is the Robert and Ruth Halperin Professor in Art History at Stanford University. He is the author, most recently, of What Was Contemporary Art (MIT Press: 2013) and co-editor, with Catherine Lord, of Art and Queer Culture (Phaidon Press: 2013).
Pacino Di Bonaguida (active around 1303-1347), The Apparition of Saint Michael, Leaf from the Laudario of Sant’ Agnese, around 1340, tempera and gold leaf on parchment. The British Library, London (Add. Ms. 35254 B)
Click to play:
Recorded: Wednesday, May 22, 7 pm in Jackman Hall
Gilles Mongeau and Sasha Suda
Listen as Gilles Mongeau and Sasha Suda discuss the challenges faced by early Renaissance artists, like Dante and Pacino, whose efforts to depict their changing world precipitated a radical new visual language.
Gilles Mongeau is the Director, Master of Divinity and Associate Professor of Systematic Theology at Regis College in Toronto. Sasha Suda is the Art Gallery of Ontario’s assistant curator of European art.
What is this thing?
The specimen in the video above, the larva of a webbing clothes moth (Tineola bisselliella), was discovered in a cardboard box stored on top of a wool carpet in an administrative office. At only 5mm long, webbing clothes moth larvae can be very difficult to detect. The red wool fibres from the carpet — also visible in the video — provided the larva a steady source of food. At this stage in its life cycle, after hatching from an egg, the moth can cause the most damage, because larvae feed on material and produce frass (aka excrement) that will be a colour similar to the material that has been eaten (in this case the red fibre from the carpet).
What’s happening in the video?
Conservators Sherry Phillips and Maria Sullivan collected the larva and viewed it under microscope to identify the specimen, and the carpet was immediately wrapped and sealed to prevent further migration of pests, then placed in a chest freezer to eliminate any other larvae, eggs and adults in the carpet.
Where did it come from?
Moths can find their way into the Gallery on coats, clothing or on other items that staff or visitors carry. New artworks or materials are screened for pests before placement in the galleries or vaults.
So, what’s the big deal?
All galleries and museums need to be vigilant and pro-active in keeping pests under control. The goal of an effective pest-management program is to find and deal with these issues before they affect the collection, and so efforts extend to all areas of the building, not just in the galleries. Larvae can cause extensive damage to artwork made of or containing materials that have protein, such as natural fibres — particularly silk and wool — as well as hides and feathers. AGO staff monitor for pests throughout the building on a weekly basis to identify potential problems, because it is easier to prevent a problem than to deal with an infestation.
Curious about Conservation?
If you have a burning question about Conservation, leave a comment below. We’ll do our best to give you an answer in an upcoming Conservation Notes post.
Signature Partner of the AGO’s Conservation Program
On Feb. 10, AGO artists in residence Life of a Craphead presented a new edition of Doored, a monthly performance show that they have been curating and hosting since 2012. Doored features exciting new work from performance artists and comedians in Toronto. This edition’s participants were Bridget Moser, Cameron Lee, CN Tower Liquidation, Daniel Goodbaum, Fake Injury Party, Glenn Macaulay, Gwen Bieniara, Laura McCoy, Lisa Smolkin, and Neil LaPierre and David Tallis, with live music by Man Made Hill, visuals by Nikki Woolsey and door by Zoe Solomon.
Doored is part of the regular programming at the artist-run venue Double Double Land in Kensington Market.
About Life of a Craphead
Life of a Craphead is the collaborative work of Amy Lam and Jon McCurley, comprising performance, comedy, theatre and video. Established in 2006, their projects include transporting two psychopaths in a cage on the back of a truck, touring a live comedy show, giving away everything on a restaurant’s menu, and building a three-storey maze. Their first feature-length film, Bugs, is in post-production. Life of a Craphead have presented work at The Power Plant, Toronto; Gallery TPW, Toronto; Hotel MariaKapel, Hoorn, The Netherlands; Department of Safety, Anacortes, U.S.; and the Banff Centre, Banff, as well as at numerous comedy venues and music shows in Canada and the U.S.
Life of a Craphead live and work in Toronto and collaborate frequently with other artists and performers.
Bridget Moser is an interdisciplinary artist whose performances combine inanimate objects, affect, prop comedy, and escape art. She has presented work in various venues across Canada, the United States, and Europe.
Cameron Lee received his BFA in Drawing and Painting from OCAD U, the University of the Imagination. He hasn’t drawn or painted much since graduating.
CN Tower Liquidation is Sebastian Butt, Charlie Murray and Xan Hawes. They specialize in the dematerialization and reconstitution of objects into cubes. Recent shows include Free(or Best Offer), Ed Video Media Arts Centre, Guelph; THASDF FORDFBDFG CDFBLLimdbbing MEAD, Gendai Workstation; and Paul Petro’s Christmas Spice.
Daniel Goodbaum is either an artist/comedian or a comedian/artist. He’s attempting a ‘reverse Woody Allen’ by starting as a filmmaker and working his way into standup. He makes videos about food, fashion, film, and one or two things that don’t start with the letter ‘f’.
Fake Injury Party are three full grown men who know how to get the job done and have fun doing it! Experience: catering, dishwashing, serving.
Glenn Macaulay has been performing comedy in Toronto since 2005. He believes in true love and has to get to the theatre nice and early in order to fully enjoy the experience.
Gwen Bieniara is an artist from Toronto who works closely with performance.
Laura McCoy lives and works in Toronto.
Lisa Smolkin is an artist living in Toronto. Some of her creative stand-out moments include hosting a connectedness workshop, having a home-museum tailored to its visitors, and co-presenting a performative installation about the idea of emotional receptivity/industrial receiving areas.
Man Made Hill is the Solo Funk Agenda of Randy Gagne. Incubated in a crusty basement in Cambridge, ON, Man Made Hill has been steady mutilating sounds since 2004. Armed with a modest arsenal of synthesizer/sampler/drum-machine/voice/dance MMH assumes a series of transformational stage personas including Extra-Terrestrial Sex Judge, Diseased Futuristic Priest, Energy-Mayonnaise Demonstrator, Prison Disco-Enthusiast etc…
Neil LaPierre and David Tallis are prophets of the hypercassional (events you’ll be finding yourself doing everyday several times a day). This is their first performance at the AGO.
Nikki Woolsey lives in Toronto and makes mostly sculpture and photography. She collaborated with Life of a Craphead at the Hotel Maria Kapel residency in The Netherlands and contributed to CN Tower Liquidation’s performative “Theory of Condensation” event at the AGO. She was included in the recent exhibition “That’s not a run in your stocking, it’s a hand on your leg” at Narwhal Art Projects. She sometimes works as a prop maker and production designer.