Now remember, we have been using Flickr to teach with for years, and yet — in the last couple of weeks — we’ve been amazed at the power of images from Flickr to enhance the content on the smarthistory site.
1) The images can show the work of art in its current context. This is something we believe is critical & so very different from the sanitized images students usually see in art history class. Photos of images in context embed art in time and place — and give viewers a sense of what it is like to see and experience the original work.
2) The images can allow us to reflect more broadly on the social experience of seeing works of art in the museum.
3) The images can reveal details or views of the work that help to enrich our understanding and experience of it.
4) The images draw our attention to what viewers are finding interesting about a work of art and the museum experience.
5) The images create a community of interest among those who like to see new media being used in creative ways to make art and art history more accessible. Thanks Nels1!
6) It also means that we really begin to exploit the great potential of the read/write web, Smarthistory can become richer and stronger because of the collective wisdom of its visitors. This is especially compelling in the discipline of art history which too often discounts the knowledge of the non-expert. Here is a perfect example: Beth and I made an introductory video for the period 1848-1907 for Smarthistory that included Van Gogh’s Potato Eaters. In the recording I got ahead of myself and made an error about where the artist was when he painted this wonderful canvas. Soon after we posted the video, I invited a photograph on Flickr to the Smarthistory group and linked it to the page with the video. The photographer, who is a resident of Nuenen, the city where the Potato Eaters was really painted, pointed out my error and I immediately posted the exchange/correction and recognized that we had really just touched on the the true power of social media. Knowledge is widespread and we finally have the means to bring it together. What could be a more exciting enterprise?!
— Beth & Steven