Making art accessible to global audiences through artificial intelligence

The Metropolitan Museum of Art teamed up with Microsoft and MIT to find ways to transform the museum experience using Microsoft AI.

Two years ago,  The Metropolitan Museum of Art launched their Open Access platform, making all images and data relating to public-domain artworks in its collection available to everyone online. The goal was to scale the reach and relevance of its collection on a global level. On the second anniversary of this initiative, the team at The Met now wants to help audiences better discover the artworks and find meaningful connections between them.

Our task is really to share The Met's collection, to disseminate our knowledge, to as many people as possible.

- Max Hollein, Director of The Metropolitan Museum of Art

To realize this goal, curators from The Met teamed up with engineers and data scientists from Microsoft along with students and faculty from MIT for an ambitious 48-hour hackathon. The collaboration was hosted over a two-day period at the Garage in Microsoft’s New England Research & Development (NERD) center in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The teams used their creativity along with latest tools from Microsoft’s AI platform to develop new prototype experiences which enhance the public’s discovery ofand connections to—The Met’s Open Access collection. As Loic Tallon, the Chief Digital Officer of The Met put it, “At The Met, we believe we have one object that can inspire every single person on the planet. Now we’re asking ourselves, using AI technologies, what can [these teams] build? How can we reduce the distance each of those people and the object that will inspire them?”

At the hackathon, Microsoft engineer and seasoned mentor Noelle LaCharite was on hand to guide teams through the various Microsoft AI tools and plugins that the teams were using to build out their apps.

We can create experiences around art that have really never been seen before. Because the AI we have today has never been available before.

- Noelle LaCharite, Principal PM, Applied AI at Microsoft

Five impressive prototypes were born out of the event that have the potential to help global audiences better connect with The Met’s iconic collection.

What made this experience so valuable and rewarding for me was the visual aspect of the system we were building... It was a unique experience to work at the intersection of art and engineering, and to build such a powerful creative experience.

- Gillian Belton, MIT Undergraduate, Microsoft extern

While underpinned by some impressive technology, these hackathon prototypes offer a poetic glimpse into how AI and human creativity can come together to, bring art to the world, at scale.

The ambition is for these AI prototypes to inspire, invite, and empower new communities to use The Met collection API and Microsoft’s AI platform to create new forms of engagement with art that can be scaled around the world.