Situated just beneath the building’s sleek glass roof on Level 5 and between the transparent walls of the Straus Center’s conservation labs, the Lightbox Gallery occupies prime real estate in the Harvard Art Museums. The space offers dramatic views into the Calderwood Courtyard below and the Harvard campus beyond. It’s often a stop for visitors who want to admire every angle of the dazzling architectural work of the Renzo Piano Building Workshop, which completed the museums’ expansion and renovation in 2014.
Created and coordinated jointly by the museums’ Department of Digital Infrastructure and Emerging Technology and the Division of Academic and Public Programs, the Lightbox Gallery is a collaborative space where artists, students, staff, faculty, and visitors can test and stretch the boundaries of the collections and the museums’ digital capabilities.
The 500-square-foot gallery has a unique and flexible arrangement for the display of art in multiple media. Here, visitors can experiment and learn. Artists can create multimedia works that respond to or reproduce the collections in novel ways; conservators can compare high-resolution images and oversized X-rays of beloved paintings to discover fresh perspectives; and curators and other staff can experiment with new ways of visualizing and interacting with museum data.
The Lightbox Gallery has been used as a venue for dozens of functions, from science festival programs to class meetings. In the fall of 2016, the gallery hosted a weekly seminar, Animation/Studio, offered by the Department of Visual and Environmental Studies. For the class’s final assignment, students were tasked with producing individual installations for the gallery, which were each displayed for one week, from late 2016 through the Spring 2017 semester.
Though it is utterly unlike anything else in the museums—and unlike R&D spaces in most museums, for that matter—the Lightbox Gallery embodies the Harvard Art Museums’ mission and spirit. Innovative, experimental, collaborative, cross-disciplinary, and open-ended: it’s a new model for interpretive museum technology in the 21st century.
For more on the Lightbox Gallery, read some of our past Index articles: Animating the Lightbox Gallery, An Artist in the Lightbox, Springing to Light, Out of the Box, Unlimited Possibilities, Thinking with Collections, Designed for the 21st Century