Podcasts Enrich Visit to Mead Art Museum

Kristina Tedeschi, Daily Hampshire Gazette

Now at the Mead Art Museum at Amherst College, wall labels aren't the only way to learn about a work of art.

Two new audio and video podcast series - "Mead Audio Tours" and "Ten Minutes with a Masterpiece" - are available for download on the museum's Web site, http://www.amherst.edu/mead/, and through the iTunes music store. The "Mead Audio Tours" podcast contains a series of episodes dedicated to one artwork in the museum's permanent collection, while "Ten Minutes with a Masterpiece" is a video podcast that documents gallery talks given by Amherst College students who participated in the museum's volunteer docent program.

Students taking part in the interterm seminar given by Elizabeth Barker, the museum's director and chief curator, along with Amherst College calculus students, recorded the podcasts, which made their official debut April 30.

In "Mead Audio Tours," dozens of paintings are discussed, including such works as "Study for 'Wind from the Sea,'" by American artist Andrew Wyeth, and "Olive Trees in the Garden of Gethsemane," by British painter Edward Lear. In one episode, sophomores Caroline Edmundson and Emily Mackey talk about John Singer Sargent's "In a Garden, Corfu," explore his career, and discuss what they like about the painting.

Teddy O'Connor, the technology and student programs coordinator at the museum who oversaw the podcasts' creation, said many of the students involved in the docent program aren't studying art, so their opinions provide fresh perspectives to the works.

"Many of them are pre-med or math students - it's really great because it gets them into the Mead," O'Connor said. He said he also hopes the podcasts attract new visitors that might not otherwise go to an art museum.

The videos in "Ten Minutes with a Masterpiece" document past gallery talks and contains bonus materials like interactive diagrams and images of related artworks.

Mead patrons are encouraged to download the podcasts to their MP3 players before visiting the museum, so they can listen while looking at the original works on view. Ten iPods are also available for visitors to borrow at the front desk; borrowers must leave a driver's license or other form of ID at the desk until the iPod is returned.