Building a crowd-sourced museum of art

Foteini Valeonti, UK

USEUM is an attempt to put an order in all depicted artworks that are available on the Internet. Its goal is to build a platform that is of benefit to all key ‘forces’ of the art ecosystem; museums, artists, copyright owners and art lovers, who are also the end users of USEUM.  Furthermore utilising Augmented Reality USEUM aims to bring art in the hands of its users with its mobile application ‘USEUM Lens’.

Museums, living artists and copyright owners have been using the web increasingly in order to promote their content, a fact that led the Internet to feature pictures of millions if not billions of artworks. The reasons behind it vary; a large number of museums today maintain their own websites that feature a part if not their whole collections of artifacts on-line, whilst living artists share a great amount of their work on the Internet in order to reach out to a wider audience. For similar reasons copyright owners, such as the Bridgeman Art Library [1], have digitised all of their content and published it on the Internet. For all of the above, if a user today searches on the Internet for a particular artwork regardless of its creation date and its genre, there is a high possibility to find one or more images of this artwork.

Similar initiatives have emerged, however these were either focused on contemporary art and living artists (e.g. Saatchi Online [2]), or on museums and old masters’ work (e.g. Artfinder [3]). USEUM’s innovation is that it works both with museums and living artists, whilst it has already begun to shape a cross-time and cross-genre relational database of art.

The driving force behind this project is crowd sourcing, followed by gamification. Artists participate on USEUM in order to promote themselves, whilst users contribute artworks from the Internet that belong to museums or to artists on USEUM, in order to gain badges and get featured as ‘Top Contributors’. The original source is always cited in every artwork on USEUM, redirecting every user to the content owner. Thus USEUM promotes the on-line exhibitions of all participant art museums, with organisations all having to do is giving their consent.

USEUM’s goal is to become a cross-time and cross-genre relational database of all two-dimensional artworks on the web. However a relational art database across the Internet is only the beginning, as USEUM aims to put these artworks in the hands of people with Augmented Reality. This is what USEUM’s mobile application ‘USEUM Lens’ achieves; it allows users to augment whichever USEUM artwork they want, wherever they want it; from a public park, to their own bedroom, they can take a snapshot, make their own statement and share it on-line.

USEUM [4] 9 months ago was only an idea, however today in its soft-launch phase it is featuring 170 artists from 56 countries and collaborates with Benaki Museum in Athens [5] and Tellogleion Insitute of Arts in Thessaloniki.