|Museums have always been in a tricky position. Instead of bringing art to the public, they have made the public come to them. And, even while they did this for perfectly logical reasons (the works of art are priceless and delicate after all), museums have nonetheless limited their ability to reach more people and promote a wider appreciation of fine art. But thanks to podcasting and other digital technology that may soon begin to change.
In recent weeks and months, several major art museums have launched podcast collections that give the public easier access to art education as well as information about their wide-ranging art collections. For starters, The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has posted on iTunes (get the rss feed here) a series of podcasts featuring both artists talking about their work and New York celebrities reading from artists' writings. (You can listen, for example, to Kevin Bacon reading excerpts from the letters of Vincent Van Gogh.) Next, we move a little downtown to The Museum of Modern Art, otherwise known as MoMA (iTunes - feed), which offers an extensive collection of educational talks, including the art critic Michael Fried in a lengthy conversation about the work of Edouard Manet, and a series of talks about Dada and Surrealism. Moving west to the Philadelphia Museum of Art (see collection on iTunes), you can download educational discussions about the work of Andrew Wyeth and Thomas Eakins, among others. Finally, moving much further west to San Francisco's SFMOMA, you'll find some stellar podcasts (iTunes - Feed), including the entire audio tour of the museum's Anselm Kiefer exhibition. (The podcast collection assembled by the Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden also has its own talk about Kiefer's work, plus many other good lectures.) Finally, another SFMOMA podcast worth your attention is "Mexico as Muse," which gives a brief introduction to the life and photography of Tina Modotti.
Many other major museums -- The National Gallery in London, The Smithsonian, The Art Institute of Chicago, to name a few -- have recently launched similar podcast collections. They're young and somewhat light on content, but we suspect that they, too, will grow over time. We also suspect that many of these museums will eventually give you the ability to download their audio tours to your own iPod, saving you the hassle of renting the museums' audio devices. You can find these podcasts, as well as many others, in our Arts & Culture Podcast Collection.