Las Vegas, N.M. – A digital imaging conservation project for the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum is one of many cutting-edge multimedia projects New Mexico Highlands University media arts students are working on at New Mexico museums and cultural institutions through the university’s one-of-a-kind AmeriCorps Cultural Technology Program.
ACT, a partnership between the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs and the Media Arts Department, was awarded a $126,130 federal grant, which the New Mexico Commission on Community Volunteerism administers.
“The fact that we’ve been awarded this grant for the third year now speaks to how much value our media arts students bring to museums and cultural institutions in the state,” said Miriam Langer, department chair for media arts. “I’m grateful to the commission for its continued support of this unique AmeriCorps program.”
Currently, media arts students and graduates are placed in Department of Cultural Affairs sites like the National Hispanic Cultural Center, New Mexico History Museum, and New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science.
Some other New Mexico host institutions for the AmeriCorps interns include the Albuquerque Museum of Art & History, Bradbury Science Museum, Roswell Museum & Art Center, SITE Santa Fe, and Youth Media Project.
The interns are working on interactive exhibits, developing websites, designing mobile apps, producing videos, designing exhibit graphics and publications, managing social media, and more.
This summer, Joey Montoya and Greg Williamson, media arts graduate students and AmeriCorps interns, are working on a computational digital imaging project for the Georgia O’ Keeffe Museum under the supervision of Dale Kronkright, head of conservation at the museum.
“In conservation and preservation, computational imaging uses the power of today’s laptop microprocessors and digital cameras to create accurate, archival 3-D images and documentation for artistic and cultural objects,” Kronkright said. “What we’re trying to do is develop two state-of-the-art workflows that represent best practices in capturing 3-D images of the condition of Georgia O’Keeffe’s home in Abiquiu, her studio at Ghost Ranch, as well as her paintings and pastels.
“It’s a very difficult task to capture valid digital 3-D photographs for conservation purposes. Joey and Greg are doing a fantastic job of taking high-quality digital images and working with the software. They have developed sophisticated competencies and are performing at a very high professional level,” Kronkright said.
Kronkright said the students’ digital images conform to International Organization for Standardization, making them scientific archival information well into the future, no matter what advances might occur in software and technology.
He also has high praise for the Media Arts Department.
“I think the Media Arts Department at Highlands is one of the most successful programs of its kind I’ve seen anywhere in the world,” said Kronkright, who has been a conservator for more than four decades. “The faculty is extremely talented and is at the cutting edge of technology.”
“Most of my interest lies with software development applications for digital image processing,” said Williams, a 30-year-old Carlsbad, N.M. native. “It’s been an incredible learning experience working with Dale. With this project, we’re getting in on the ground floor of developing state-of-the-art digital imaging techniques for conservation. It’s also very exciting to be working inches away from Georgia O’Keeffe’s art. It takes 100 percent focus.”
“To be part of a project that helps preserve our rich New Mexico culture is really rewarding,” said Montoya, 23, who grew up in Espanola, N.M. “My background is in graphic design. Now I’m learning so much about 3-D imaging that it’s helping me move in a new direction professionally. It’s been a wonderful opportunity.”
In an interesting historical twist, Kronkright said the museum archives show that Montoya’s family helped construct O’Keeffe’s Abiquiu house.
Konkright encourages conservators and the public to visit the website and blog for the project at www.okeeffeimagingproject.wordpress.com To date, 1,800 viewers from 50 countries have visited the site.
“This exciting new technology the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum is using has huge implications for cultural preservation around the world,” said Lauren Addario, a media arts instructor and ACT internship coordinator.
The media arts students are considered AmeriCorps volunteers and receive living allowances, education awards, and training during their job assignments.
“The AmeriCorps Cultural Technology Program is based on a unique cost-sharing model,” said Mimi Roberts, media projects director for the Department of Cultural Affairs. “Funds from host organizations for the living allowances are matched dollar-for-dollar by the federal funds from AmeriCorps.”
Addario said, “The host organizations are extraordinarily committed to working with and mentoring our students.”