Museums and Artificial Intelligence Network

Lead Research Organisation: Goldsmiths College
Department Name: Inst for Creative & Cultural Entrep ICCE

Abstract

As far back as the mid 2000s museums were talking about Artificial Intelligence (AI), however while these technologies have become increasingly pervasive in wider society from voice activated systems such as Alexa to the promise of Tesla's self driving cars, they are only beginning to be explored, in a museum context. With the National Gallery (UK), The Metropolitan Museum of Art (US), American Museum of Natural History (US), MoMA (US), Cooper-Hewitt (US) all beginning to explore the potential of AI this network will bring together a range of senior museum professionals and prominent academics to develop the conversation around AI, ethics and museums.

AI technologies including machine learning, predictive analytics and others, bring exciting possibilities of knowing more about visitors and collections. However, it raises important challenges to ethics. With the increasing awareness and regulations about data usage, museums, must approach AI with both caution and fervour. To successfully achieve this senior museum professionals need to be provided with the opportunity to examine what this model might look like, and the wider impact that museums can have when it comes to advocating for new ethical standards.

This research project will bring together museum professionals and scholars to discuss the cost, and indeed skills required to successfully adopt the true possibilities of AI. Cost and skill, have thus far acted as a barrier for museums, however with these technologies becoming more pervasive and skills more in demand, this is a timely moment for museums to explore the possibilities and ethical challenges of AI across their work from visitors to collections. As such this network seeks to challenge this known issue - ethics as an afterthought - by embedding it into the conversation on AI in Museums at this critical moment. A conversation that will help to inform funders and senior managers about the opportunities and challenges this technology poses for the sector.

Planned Impact

The network will have important impacts for policy making across the museum sector, and will support funders particularly in the UK to decide what funding priorities and criteria should be used to catalyse ethically sound, creative and sustainable approaches to the development of AI in museums.

The network will engage with key sectoral bodies including the American Alliance of Museums and the Museums Association, and draw policy recommendations on professional standards and AI, standards that already exist around many other areas of museum practice. Both of which have demonstrated an interest in this nascent area of museum practice, with AAM recently holding a workshop on AI and MA publishing a number of short articles on the topic in their print publication Museums Journal.

The network will support the development of transatlantic interdisciplinary partnerships, that will develop the work of 1) Museums 2) Academics 3) Digital companies. For museums this will mean greater collaborative working, across the sector, and a move away from siloed work culture. For academics this will enable research that is grounded in critical praxis, and responds to current sector challenges. For digital companies, and freelancers attendance at the network will create opportunities for new markets, clients, and business, crucially these opportunities will provide international opportunities.

Skills development is central to this network, and core network participants, and those that attend our workshops in London, New York or San Diego will develop new strategic, and management skills in relation to the development of AI technologies. These skills will ensure that museums and academics are able to write better project briefs in turn ensuring more relevant, ethical, and effective applications of these technologies are created within museums. This will have a wider impact on the museum institution and will help to shape new ways of working, and support the development of more robust and sustainable technology projects.

The work of this network will have wider impacts beyond the museum sector, in that its work will also add to similar conversations in the third sector, namely the charity sector and civil society organisations.

Through dissemination of this networks work, and the public event to be held at the Barbican, this network will open up a new conversation around AI and data distribution, that will help the wider public to become more conscious in how they permit public institutions to collect and use their data.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description The Museums + AI Network was formed in 2019 by Dr Oonagh Murphy, Goldsmiths, University of London and Dr Elena Villaespesa, School of Information, Pratt Institute. The network was funded through the AHRC Research Networking Scheme and so far has brought together 50 leading academics and museum professionals to critically examine current practice, challenges, and near future Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies in both the United Kingdom and United States. The network has also engaged with more than 200 members of the public through events at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum (New York) and The Barbican Centre (London).

Through these conversations, workshops, and public events we challenged current practice, engaged with wider critical technology discourse and iteratively developed a series of worksheets with professionals from 15 museums, and 6 universities in both countries. We also engaged with policy makers and funders as a means to situate these development tools within a wider cultural policy context.

The network developed a toolkit to distil some of these conversations, flags areas for critical engagement, and serve as a practical starting point for museum professionals who are interested in working with technologies that fit within the broad field of Artificial Intelligence. The aim of the toolkit is to support non specialists to better understand the possibilities of these technologies, and empower a wide range of museum professionals to develop - strategically, ethically, and operationally robust project plans.

While developing the toolkit we were approached by museums who would like support in understanding the possibilities of AI, clarification on key terms and an overview of the key things to consider when thinking about AI. This toolkit seeks to begin to answer those queries. It is designed to start a conversation. Conscious of the fast moving nature of this field we decided against the inclusion of a definitive how to guide, but instead sought to provide space for critical reflection, and in some ways we offer more questions than solutions.
Exploitation Route When considering using AI technologies, museums need to think about the potential benefits and challenges such technologies present. This grant supported the development of a toolkit that frames key areas for consideration for museums to explore the ethical implications of AI projects and partnerships with their wider teams before a project has been fully costed, or funding sought for implementation:

Why AI?
The conversation around AI is often over simplified, with many technologies that fall within this conversation falling far short of having sentient intelligence, instead what we see is advanced algorithmic decision making. As such it is important to not only understand the technology you intend to use, but also what data it will require (as input) and what data it will generate as output. As with most 'new technologies' it can be appealing to engage with world leading companies, and become innovators of museum practice. However as previous trends from Apps to 3D printing Have shown us, the best technology provides solutions to questions or challenges faced by a museum, rather than existing as an additional layer to a museums core mission.
Sectors Creative Economy,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

 
Description Curator Computer Creator - Barbican Centre, London 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Exploring, critiquing and understanding the ethical implications of AI within a museum context is increasingly becoming a pressing need for museums. Could robots replace museum tour guides? Should data decide what exhibitions get commissioned? Can AI help to identify hidden stories in the archives? Join staff from The National Gallery, Wellcome Collection, Goldsmiths University to find out how museums are using AI technologies to develop new ways to see and experience art. Join the discussion, tell us your thoughts, pose questions to our experts and help to shape how museums think about these technologies.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.barbican.org.uk/whats-on/2019/event/curator-computer-creator
 
Description Curator Computer Creator - Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact For decades, artificial intelligence has held a prominent position in our collective imagination, powering future visions ranging from transhumanist utopia to dystopian depictions of a world run by machines. As such, exploring, critiquing, and understanding the ethical implications of AI within a museum context is becoming a pressing need.

In an evening co-hosted by The Interaction Lab at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum and the Museums + AI Network, we'll explore three different perspectives on AI applications in the museum sector. We'll begin with a series of talks by a curator, a "computer," and a creator, followed by discussion.

Speakers

Curator: Andrea Lipps, Associate Curator of Contemporary Design, Cooper Hewitt

Computer: Harrison Pim, Data Scientist, Wellcome Trust

Creator: Karen Palmer, Storyteller from the Future

Schedule

6:30 pm: Doors open

7:00 pm - 8:00 pm: Event

8:00 - 9:00 pm - Reception in the Great Hall
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.cooperhewitt.org/event/curator-computer-creator-a-discussion-on-museums-and-ai-in-the-21...
 
Description The Museums + AI Network - Goldsmiths Event 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Our first event brought together the core network, and invited museum professionals, academics, policy makers, funders and artists from London and New York for a two day small working group style event. Participants shared current projects, discussed challenges, and developed practices across the sector. During this event we mapped current thinking around ethics, regulation and professional codes of practice with support from Doteveryone.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://sites.gold.ac.uk/iccecommunication/2019/08/08/international-experts-gather-to-discuss-the-fu...
 
Description The Museums + AI Network - Pratt Event 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Our second meeting was led by core network members, and invited museum professionals, academics, policy makers, funders and artists from New York. This two day event was programmed in response to questions, challenges, ideas and opportunities that arise from our London meeting in June.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://themuseumsainetwork.files.wordpress.com/2019/11/ny-conference-report.pdf