WCMA’s Mellon Digital Project supports and amplifies the use of WCMA’s collections. Funded by the Mellon Foundation with a three-year grant, this constellation of initiatives promotes WCMA’s collection as an open, accessible resource for teaching, learning, and creative expression.

Over the course of the project, the museum will develop a digital platform that makes visible the many ways WCMA’s collections are used by faculty, students, and the broader community. For instance, it will show how students use objects in unique thematic tours and how faculty teach on a range of subjects—from history and literature to botany, neuroscience, and statistics—in Object Lab and the Rose Object Classroom. The Mellon Project gathers the details of these interactions, adds them to the collection data, and shares them. Seeing how the collection is used adds new context and encourages new use.


Open Access Data and Images
Open access collection data in a simple downloadable text file

Open access collection data in a simple downloadable text file

At the start of this project, we released all of our collection data on Github. Students, faculty, researchers, artists, and others can now download metadata and thumbnail images for the entire collection. These open-access resources provide a real-world data set for teaching statistics, computer science, and data visualization. The data set is also an object of study in its own right, a primary source for projects in digital humanities.

Open access collection data


Exhibition as Visualization
A montage of the digitized collection focusing in on a narrow "pink" range.

A montage of the digitized collection focusing in on a narrow “pink” range.

The Mellon Digital Project is visualized in exhibitions. Accession Number displayed works of art according to their collection records, representing a slice of collection data that highlighted the historical contingency, quirks, and human texture in collection records. Pink Art visualized the collection by color instead of number. Students and faculty from the Computer Science department developed algorithms that ranked WCMA’s collection images by “pinkness” (a color defined by crowdsourcing). Curators took a new approach using these new algorithmic perspectives to inform the selection of objects.


Enhanced Online Collection
A new digital infrastructure will allow faculty, students and the broader community to browse visually and see an expanded view of an object’s life—from the context of its making to the ongoing way it has been used and taught with by others.