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Going Digital: Art and Information at the New Getty Center

It's got a sleek new campus designed by Richard Meier--and remarkable collections of art and research, from antiquity to the 20th century. And now, Los Angeles's Getty Center has not one, but two state-of-the-art digital reference systems, for visitors on-site and on-line.

For visitors to the J. Paul Getty Museum, Art Access is an interactive system that delivers a trove of digitized information on the Museum's collections. Available in Art Information Rooms in each of the Museum's four main pavilions, Art Access features an easy-to-use touch-screen interface that presents information in layers of increasing detail. Visitors can select a general introduction to the Museum and its collections, take self-paced guided tours, or search for information on any one of the more than 1,500 objects on view in the galleries--along with background on some 700 relevant artists and craftsmen.

Information on each object includes multiple views, X-ray and infra-red imaging, and digital video and audio clips. And look for biographical information on each artist, including audio and video interviews where possible.

For virtual visitors--and visitors to the Getty Center's community resource room--http://www.getty.edu/digital/ sends Web-surfers to the Digital Experience, an exploration of LA's art and cultural scene from a distinctly youthful perspective. Features like Surf's Up and In the Soup showcase such topics as Web-O-Rama, Picture This, and Awesome Audio and give users the opportunity to select from a wide range of electronic picture postcards.

As the new millennium approaches, more and more art museums and cultural institutions are exploring new and expanded roles for digital media--in interpretation, education, audience development, and community outreach. At the Getty Center, that exploration--including Art Access and Digital Experience--is setting a number of intriguing, state-of-the-art examples for the field.

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