Jim Miller, associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science was awarded an Integrated Arts Research Initiative (IARI) faculty research fellowship for the spring 2017 semester. The IARI program is a new initiative established and run by the KU Spencer Museum of Art after they were awarded a four-year grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to establish the program. The focus of Miller’s fellowship will be the development of a suite of interactive capabilities that make the full extent of the Spencer’s holdings accessible to the community at large. The approach will be based generally on the notion of “storytelling,” an active area of current visualization research that is also the vision of Robert Hickerson, the Spencer Database Manager and Archivist with whom Miller will primarily collaborate.
In addition to Miller, Mohammad Fathan, a senior computer science, will work on the project as an IARI undergraduate research fellow. Fathan’s initial work will be to develop interactive web-based tools for visualizing past, current and future museum exhibition schedules and related collections in a variety of ways. Among other things, this will make obvious how active Spencer Musuem has been over the years in attracting important traveling art exhibitions.
One general goal for these fellowships is to help develop a signature interactive application that will be unveiled at the Spencer’s 100th Anniversary celebration in the fall of 2017. The application is intended to showcase the many facets of the Spencer’s wide-ranging history and activities. For example, Miller and his team want to visually document the origin and history of all major items in the Spencer’s collection. They hope to show how active the museum has been in supporting KU classroom projects in many departments and they plan to visually document how objects have been used since they became a part of the collection. These accomplishments are a testament to Sallie Casey Thayer, the benefactor whose initial gift of nearly 7,500 objects in 1917 established an art museum at KU. It was Thayer’s vision that the museum be not just a place to view art, but a place for people to explore the impact that art can have on our life and how it is a part of everything we do, whether we realize it or not.