Enhancing audience connections to artwork through AI

National Galleries Scotland (NGS) has developed a challenge for BRAID that asks about how we might approach and develop responsible uses of AI to enhance connections between audiences and collections.

The National Galleries of Scotland comprises three galleries in Edinburgh and two partner galleries in the North and South of Scotland. We look after one of the world’s finest collections of Western art ranging from the Middle Ages to the present day. These holdings include the national collection of Scottish art which we are proud to display in an international context.

We publish images and information for our collections to our Artworks & Artists web pages. Our catalogue records and interpretive content is overwhelmingly manually produced and many records hold only data required to identify the object, with plenty of missing keyword or contextual links. Over 75% of the collection has a digital image and our digitisation programme is ongoing. Around 10% of our collection has digital content published alongside it. Multimedia content is also published to platforms that can be accessed by the visitor onsite.

There is much potential inherent in the application of AI methods to enhance audience access to collections. How might National Galleries of Scotland make use of AI responsibly to improve the experience of our audiences and publics? (challenge-code NGS-C)

We invite a wide range of proposals that explore questions like:

  • How to responsibly develop new and innovative digital content and inclusive online visitor experiences using AI?
  • How responsible AI can empower audience and stakeholder engagement with the collection?
  • How to improve our data collection and management while maintaining our reputation as a trusted authority?
  • How to meaningfully connect our collections and other collections?
  • How to align physical and virtual visitor experiences more generally?

Additional Context

We invite research proposals that

  • focus on how the arts and humanities can inform the development of responsible AI practices and procedures at a national collection;
  • are built around a single project or a portfolio of smaller projects;
  • call for regular contact and engagement with the NGS;
  • promote ongoing knowledge exchange and include practical outputs that are usable by industry alongside any research papers;
  • benefit from a flexible and collaborative approach; and
  • seek to contribute to the galleries’ policies, procedures, and plans for AI uptake by incorporating shared outcomes that meet one or more NGA priorities (Business Continuity & Change; Public Offer; Income Generation & Cost Management; Equality, Diversity & Inclusion; Environment; Wellbeing) as outlined in our Strategic Plan.

Some possible shared outcomes from the project might support

  • the development of novel insights and approaches for the responsible deployment of AI for data enhancement and content generation purposes;
  • identifying overarching frameworks, tools and methods for responsible implementation of AI in museum collections; and
  • our journey to Open Access and consider the challenges we might encounter by making collections data available to AI.

In addition, we hope that fellows will consider things like:

  • the ethics of using visitor data to develop targeted content;
  • the environmental impact of AI technologies and how this relates to our organisational environment priority;
  • the challenges of using digital tools to enhance searchability of collections and issues around accessibility (including issues to do with the specialist terminology that oftens structures and categorises the data);
  • how to mitigate the risk of mis-information about our collections and specialist subject areas; and
  • opportunities to link to non-traditional ‘art’ collections and data.

Working Arrangements

How it will work

  • If the application is successful, the NGS will work with the fellow to refine the project plan and agree on shared goals and outcomes.
  • NGS will support the fellow in terms of providing a research contact and facilitating meetings with key internal stakeholders, mostly in the Digital and Collections Systems departments.
  • NGS will be able to provide an overview of our organisational structure, data systems and data content, early into the project.
  • NGS will be able to provide occasional office desk space (up to 4 days per quarter, subject to security arrangement which might include DBS check) in one of the National Galleries Scotland buildings in Edinburgh for the fellow to work from.
  • NGS is set up for hybrid meetings via MS Teams.
  • We expect the fellow to factor into their budget proposal travel, accommodation and subsistence costs and any specific research costs they envision.
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