In case you missed it, Algoma University’s Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre and Arthur A. Wishart Library recently won the 2013 SSMARt Innovation Project of the Year Award. The award recognizes an “organization whose IT/science project demonstrates leadership and/or creative use of science/technology” and includes “benefits such as the advancement of the organization, improvement of client/customer services and positive impact on the science and IT community or the community at large.”
Like most people today I spend most of my day interacting with digital technology in some way. Digital mediums are a crucial part of my job, even though most of the physical material I’m working with was created long before the internet and computer became mainstream. This contrast seems reasonable when you look at it from a preservation standpoint – digitization has the potential to allow documents to exist long after paper has deteriorated.
Despite this logic and being a slight technology geek and addict, I found the recent CBC Doc Zone episode Are We Digital Dummies? oddly appealing. The show provided an interesting look at the impact of technology on business, personal interaction, and how we manage technology. The documentary itself wasn’t anything earth shattering. It built upon the studies which show that we are poor multitaskers and the work of Nicolas Carr author of “Is Google Making us Stupid?” Despite the lack of ground breaking conclusions it was nice to see technology placed in a Canadian context and to be exposed to some Canadian technology usage stats. Am I going to change my technology habits as a result of watching it? Most likely not, I am writing about the show in a blog after all…..
I was recently reminded of the impact which technology has upon art. Art like many things has been drastically impacted by evolving technologies. Since the impact of technology on art is diverse, to begin with I’m only going to attempt to discuss technology and art history.
The work of Dr Maurizio Seracini is one of the most well known examples of the profound impact technology can have upon art history. For over 25 years Seracini has been using technology to learn more about the works of Da Vinci. Seracini adapted technology from medical and military fields to allow for nondestructive analysis of art. One of the more notable efforts by Seracini is the possible discovery “The Battle of Anghiari” mural by da Vinci. Using radar and tomographic imagery Seracini was able to analyze the hall in which the mural was painted, without damaging any of it’s current contents. The use of technology to examine original architecture and art has immense possibilities, and could allow for scholars to learn a great deal more about supposedly lost architectural and aesthetic features.
Additionally, technology has also been used to assign dates to pieces of art. For example, a relatively new technology has allowed for the dating of early pictographs. This technology uses a type of carbon dating, previously only used on pottery, bones, and other physical artifacts. This carbon dating was previously not possible due to the lack of high levels of organic materials in most pictographs. As technology has advanced more information has been gained about early rock paintings. This is a triumph for anyone interested in early art history, archeology, and the history of many ancient societies.
As technology has increased so has the ease of creating art forgeries. That being said technology has also allowed for the development of technologies which can easily detect forgeries. For example, laser ablation-inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS) has been used to examine paints, and materials used in art. This technology has allowed for unique analysis of art, and for a “chemical fingerprint” to be created for original works of art. By knowing the exact chemical the materials used by artists, exposing forgeries has become much easier. Additionally, knowing more about the materials used by artists allows for the expansion of another dimension of art history.
Technology has allowed for art history to become increasingly scientific. Technology can assist in taking a lot of the ‘guess work’ out of art history. By combining science and art, a more in depth history of society and culture can be developed.