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1. Introduction

The coming of the Digital Era has brought, as everybody knows, deep and irreversible changes in men’s everyday life, introducing habits and methods that one couldn’t imagine thirty years ago. The proliferation of PCs during the last decade is certainly one of the main reasons of this transformation; in particular, the availability of the Internet almost in every place has led to many solid customs one could not renounce. It’s quite easy, for instance, thinking how maps printed on paper are almost disappeared and have been replaced with several versions of digital navigators, or how the printed phone books are drawing to the same end.

Even if nowadays this process seems rather banal since everyone uses digital technology in a natural-born manner, there are millions of people who everyday work at new systems to enhance the contribution of these technologies to improve our lives. Among these workers there are digital humanists: computer scientists with a liking for humanistic research, as well as humanists who have found how nice and useful could be their work with a digital support.

A large piece of their research fields is dedicated to the implementation of new methods to approach the study of classical humanistic disciplines, such as literature, history, art, music. If several text-mining tools have been developed for the analysis of ancient and classic texts, other methods are used in historical studies, for instance to visualize space-time maps.

 2. Art and Digital Maps

Concerning the art, the importance of an excellently designed digital archive of paintings, buildings, monuments is well-known: at present all the most important museums are committing themselves to enlarge their digital collections. Nevertheless, digitization process is not the only application, since any other digital tool provided could be used in a smart way.

The example we want to focus on is given by the great opportunity offered by digital maps, which could allow us to search, localize and visualize paintings, printings and photos in their original contest.

What does this art mapping mean? A better idea of what one could do is given by some existing project that try to conjugate two things apparently different.

Geocoded Art. One of the projects that geographically incorporates artwork by using two contemporary map tools, Google Maps and Bing Maps, is the Geocoded Art. Geocoded Art is a web-service having a collection of landscape, cityscape and seascape paintings, whose location is visualized on the map. The service displays a pin depicting the locations that has a painting affiliated with them. The artwork can be seen by clicking on the corresponding pin and the painter’s other works can be reached through the opening interface. Furthermore, the user can query the painting database by location name, painting name or artist name. Although the website has a user-friendly design, it does not present the user the possibility to directly check how that location appears right now, and it does not provide any additional information about the painting such as the year.

MOCA’s Ends of the Earth. Another project that displays artwork together with geolocation information is the Ends of the Earth exhibition of the Museum of Contemporary Arts Los Angeles. As a support for the exhibition, the museum provides an interactive feature, which consists of a web page displaying a full-page map using Google Maps API and a sidebar containing links to the artworks.

Each artwork is accompanied by an 45 degrees aerial shot, satellite image or a street view shot when possible. The user is given information about the artwork and the artist together with the geolocation. However, the number of artworks is limited and the aim of this site is to display the land art collection of the museum in an interactive way to demonstrate the relationship of land art to real places and times.

TATE’s Art Maps. Another interesting result of the conjugation of Google Maps and museums is a project carried on by TATE’s museum in London called Art Maps. The TATE’s museum has artworks located at various places in Britain: Art Maps is basically a web service that enables users to see where these artworks are located on a map. The application can be accessed by a web browser and can be found on this page.

When this page is opened, it provides the user with a satellite view map. It is also possible to change it hybrid or road-map or terrain views which are provided by Google Maps. On this map, user can zoom in and zoom out and see the locations of the artworks as pinpoints on the map. If there are more than one artworks at a specific location, the number of artworks associated with it are shown on the pinpoint. When the user clicks on a pinpoint, a window opens that lists all the artworks affiliated with that specific location with a short description. Selecting one of the artwork from this list, the picture of the artwork is displayed on a new page, with a short description and location of the artwork on the Google Maps satellite view pinpointed.

Moreover, it is possible to search for a specific artwork: in order to do this, user can enter either a keyword or a location on the search bar. Furthermore, another feature ofthis application is that users can share their ideas about the artworks.


2. Conclusion

With the advancements of geographical information systems such as Google Maps and Bing Maps, the possibility to conjugate land art with real geographical locations have become realizable. Although there exists art-mapping systems, they do not focus to visualize a particular city but give the general location of where the artwork’s subject is.

Nevertheless, the idea of art mapping can be further extended by other clever combination of tools offered by Geo Information Systems.


[1] Geocoded art: www.geocodedart.com

[2] End of the Art: www.moca.org/landart/www.moca.org

[3] Art Map: www.tate.org.uk/about/projects/art-mapswww.tate.org.uk/context-comment/blogs/art-mapping-home, www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-britain/courses-and-workshops/art-mapping

A project by Tania Palmieri, Kazikli Ertan and Öçal Orhan