Playing tag in a virtual art gallery

John
John Gushue
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One of the best things about travel is the opportunity to see things that are meant to amaze. It’s no wonder that tourists often flock to a city’s museums and public galleries. I’m still absorbing what I saw at the Musée d'Orsay in Paris, for instance, and the National Gallery in London.

The first visit on this week’s web tour is not so much to a gallery, but an entire country’s public art collection. Shortly after, we’ll engage you in an unusual art project, and then we’ll pay attention to a range of subjects, from sound-alike words to an international crisis of the past that fascinates us to this day.

Your Paintings

www.bbc.co.uk/arts/yourpaintings/

Let me emphasize that point about the National Gallery in London — if you ever get the chance, go. It’s free, and it’s amazing. (Not to mention the fact that the National Portrait Gallery is around the corner, and Trafalgar Square is on the doorstep.) But the paintings there are just a fraction of what’s in Britain, and this noble project from the BBC brings together tens of thousands of artworks under one digital umbrella. It’s magnificent, and fortunately rather easy to use.

There’s one facet of the Your Paintings project (the title itself underscores the sense of ownership that citizens in the U.K. are expected to have with such treasures) that brings a whole new meaning to crowdsourcing.

Tag Your Paintings

tagger.thepcf.org.uk/

If you post photos much to Facebook, you probably know what tagging is. You click on a face, identify the person, and then a record is made connecting the name and the image. Tag Your Paintings invites users to add descriptive details — like the objects in a painting, the colours that are seen, the places that are depicted, just to name a few — to the many thousands of paintings named above. Why? Well, cumulative tagging makes visual art accessible in ways we may never have thought possible before.

Registration is encouraged, but it’s not necessary if you’d like to give it a go. Try it. It’s a new way of connecting with art.

Elsewhere this week

Homophones, Weakly

homophonesweakly.blogspot.ca/

It’s time for some plane speaking … oops, make that plain. I always feel that homophones, those words that sound alike, but which have different meanings, must be a challenge for people learning English as a second language. Goodness knows that many people with it as a first language trip up over them, too. Bruce Worden (an appropriate surname, for a blog about language) takes a visual approach to the words that can sometimes be so tricky.

Dornob

dornob.com/

A fishtank that keeps itself clean by growing plants on its top. An elegant bar where guests can sidle up to chairs that have no legs. A bathtub that improves accessibility by lowering its sides after the user walks into the space. Dornob is about designs for homes, furniture and the things we use every day — or would, if we could find them. It’s always a fascinating place to visit, even if many of the things you see are a little (or a lot) impractical.

Clouds Over Cuba

cloudsovercuba.com/

How much do people know about the Cuban Missile Crisis? It’s worth noting that anyone younger than 50 could not have lived through the 1962 episode of Cold War tension, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t fascinate. This is a project of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, which indicates that there is a point of view. Nonetheless, it ought to draw in those who remember those tense days, and those who want to know what it was like, and what was happening.

John Gushue is a digital producer with CBC News in St. John’s. Twitter: @johngushue

Organizations: National Portrait Gallery, BBC, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library CBC News

Geographic location: U.K., London, Trafalgar Square Cuba

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