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Toolkit launched to help museum Artificial Intelligence projects


A free planning toolkit to help museums develop Artificial Intelligence (AI) projects has been launched by The Museums + AI Network – a group of senior museum professionals and academics in the UK and US that have come together to discuss how AI can fit within a museum context.

AI: A Museum Planning Toolkit is the result of their discussions, workshops and events, as well as a series of public events called “Curator: Computer: Creator”, that sought more diverse voices on how AI might work for museums.

It is offered as a free resource to support the development of “ethically robust project concepts”, the network said.

“The toolkit is designed to start a conversation. It does not provide all the answers, or indeed offer solutions, but instead it serves as a foundation for critical engagement with these technologies and the possibilities and challenges that they offer.”

Case studies within the toolkit include those on the American Museum of Natural History, the National Gallery, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Themes explored include AI capabilities and ethics.

The “principal investigator” behind the network is Dr Oonagh Murphy, a lecturer in Arts Management at Goldsmiths, University of London, with Dr Elena Villaespesa, an assistant professor at the School of Information, Pratt Institute, named as “international co-investigator”.

An annual lecture event that will alternate between London and New York is due to kick off in 2020, and the network is also planning on delivering a series of publications and international conference talks to start sharing its findings.

On its website, the Museums + AI Network explains some of the context behind its subject matter, observing that AI is “becoming an increasingly pressing concern for many large museums who are beginning to experiment with its potential to provide new ways to engage with audiences, visitors, art and objects”.

It continues: “AI technologies including machine learning, predictive analytics and others, bring exciting possibilities of knowing more about visitors and collections. However, these technologies also raise important ethical questions for museums. With an increasing awareness and regulations about data usage in wider society, museums must approach AI with both caution and fervour. As such, exploring, critiquing and understanding the ethical implications of AI within a museum context is increasingly becoming a pressing need for museums.”

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