Block Museum of Art Wins Cultural Heritage Media and Technology Awards

The Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University is pleased to announce the museum is the recipient of two 2018 MUSE Awards from the American Alliance of Museums.

The Block Museum was presented with the Gold in the Honeysett and Din Student Award Category and the Bronze Award in the category of Audio Experiences. The awards were presented during a ceremony reception held on Sunday, May 6, 2018 at the American Alliance of Museums Annual Meeting in Phoenix, AZ. This award recognizes the Block Museum’s high achievement in the application of media and technology to Gallery, Library, Archive, and Museum (GLAM) programs.

The MUSE Awards competition received over 200 applications from a wide variety of institutions in North and South America, Europe, Australia, and Asia. This year’s entries included videos and films, interactive kiosks and installations, mobile applications, audio experiences and podcasts, digital communities, online resources, educational programs, student projects, and more.

“The Block Museum is extremely proud to be receiving this recognition from our colleagues at the American Alliance of Museums, especially as we do so alongside our student partners from Northwestern’s University’s departments of Computer Science and Radio, Television, and Film who created these projects to enrich the exhibition experience.  The Block Museum is deeply committed to building exhibitions that offer interdisciplinary opportunities for teaching and learning. These awards underscore the fact that student museum educational partnerships can also lead to the highest excellence in exhibition building,” –  Lisa Graziose Corrin,  Ellen Philips Katz Director, Block Museum of Art

Over 90 GLAM professionals from across the world participated as jurors in the process of reviewing and selecting the winners. Winning entries were expected to demonstrate outstanding achievement in their content, design, interface, technical merit, accessibility, innovation, and appeal. The international Alliance Media & Technology Professional Network’s annual awards are presented to institutions or independent producers who use digital media to enhance the GLAM experience and engage audiences. The MUSE awards celebrate scholarship, community, innovation, creativity, education and inclusiveness. The competition is an activity of the Media & Technology Professional Network of the American Alliance of Museums.

“It is an honor and a privilege for the Media & Technology Professional Network to host the MUSE awards, now in its 29th year. The quality of entries has been exceptional, representing the best digital media and technology GLAM projects from around the world.” – Neal Johnson, Chair, AAM Media & Technology Professional Network

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Gold Award – Honeysett and Din Student Award

“Investigating an Ancient Mummy with X-ray Imaging and Augmented Reality”

  • Kyle Engelmann, Northwestern University undergraduate
  • Nathan Matsuda, Northwestern University graduate student
  • Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University

Students in a Northwestern University fall 2017 course “Materials Science and Socioeconomics of Portrait Mummies from Ancient Fayum,” taught by Professor Marc Walton and Taco Terpstra used Computed Tomography (CT) scan data to investigate and understand the material composition and significance of a nineteen-hundred-year-old mummy. This project was a collaboration between Northwestern’s Block Museum of Art, McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, and Feinberg School of Medicine. Pursuing parallel independent studies, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science senior Kyle Engelmann and PhD candidate Nathan Matsuda, mentored by Professor Oliver Cossairt used the data collected from the scan to develop a ground-breaking interactive augmented reality (AR) visualization.

Engelmann converted the segmented CT data to a polygon surface representation suitable for real-time display, then developed a rendering model emulating X-ray images. This model, combined with Apple’s visual and inertial odometry tools (ARKit), provides visitors with a hands-on digital window into the internal structure of the mummy. To our knowledge, we are the first museum in the country to make use of this new open source tool. The result is a mobile application that can be downloaded to an Apple smartphone or tablet. Viewers are able to use the device to “scan” the mummy in real time and in motion, walking around the mummy display case to see on their devices various internal details revealed by the CT scan. The app allows a “layered” view: each layer can be turned on or off for a more complete or more focused view. The layers include views of the skeleton and objects placed within the mummy at the time of embalmment or after its excavation, including a possible amulet that was further analyzed using the Advanced Photon Source (APS) at Argonne National Laboratories as part our preparatory research for the exhibition.

Bronze Award –  Audio Experiences

Museum Sound Design: Abyss

  • Thomas Molash, Northwestern University undergraduate
  • Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University

Multiple channel site-specific audio work created by Radio, Television and Film senior Thomas Molash for the exhibition “Paint the Eyes Softer: Mummy Portraits from Roman Egypt” on view January 13th to April 22, 2018 at the Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University. Track created in conjunction with the course Museum Sound Design taught by Professor Stephan Moore of the Sound Arts and Industries Program in the Department of Radio, Television and Film at Northwestern University.

“The design includes four pendants and two event speakers. This allows each speaker to be at a lower volume, helping curb sound bleed and increasing legibility. The event speakers are hung high facing the ground. They will provide an ambient wash over most of the space in the form of two different compositions. The pendant speakers are playing melodic compositions that fit with their respective area’s ambient compositions. My composition is very simple and repetitive, featuring only a few different instruments and samples. It allows the mind to focus on absorbing information from the gallery labels. The ‘melody’ of the composition draws attention to the solemn funerary theme of the exhibition. The composition for the first area of the exhibit is faster and more complex than that for the second, which allows viewers to slowly adjust to the ‘museum tempo’ as they begin their journey through the exhibit. The composition of the second area draws on the melodic themes created in the first, but differs in its repetitiveness. The point is to draw people into a meditative state as they are viewing the panel paintings, encouraging thoughtfulness and interaction with the art.” – Thomas Molash

For more information about the MUSE awards, please visit:



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