Summer found Virginia McBride ’15 at the forefront of a technological revolution in the art world, applying 21st century technology to enhance the appreciation of works as old as thousands of years.
As a recipient of the coveted Warshawsky Fellowship at the Cleveland Museum of Art, McBride of Austin, Texas, spent most of her time writing for ArtLens, the museum’s groundbreaking application for the Apple iPad that enables visitors to dig deeply into the collection and personalize their visits.
“This was not something that I expected to be doing,” McBride said. “I am not very tech savvy in some ways. But it was exciting to be a part of such an innovative project. This application is really at the vanguard of using technology to enrich the museum experience. The Cleveland Museum of Art is one of the first museums in the world to do anything like this.”
ArtLens delivers audio, visual, and written tools to explore techniques, meanings, and personalities behind the museum’s collection. Its scanning technology enables viewers to customize tours and receive content about specific portions of a painting called “hotspots.”
One of McBride’s biggest challenges was learning how to write for the application. “I had a strong background in academic writing but trying to reach people of all ages and backgrounds forced me to communicate in a more accessible way,” she said. “You don’t want to teach visitors as much as you want to invite them to have an experience with the work.”
The museum’s most sought-after internship paid McBride a stipend of $3,000 during a period of eight weeks. Museum officials were impressed with her work as a student associate at the Gund Gallery at Kenyon, where she wrote wall-label text, led tours, and helped curate an art show, among other projects. “That was one of the reasons I was selected,” she said.
The free ArtLens app is part of an eight-year, $350 million museum expansion and renovation that is nearing completion. “There’s a real sense of excitement about what is happening here, and it was gratifying to be part of that,” said McBride, who plans to pursue a museum career.
McBride was among dozens of Kenyon interns this summer working as movie set designers, blacksmiths, teachers, Congressional aides, journalists, medical science researchers, magazine designers, and business analysts, among other roles. A sample of internships served by Kenyon students is available online.