What do you see in a split-second?

Today, we are launching Split Second: Indian Paintings and it’s something I’ve been excited about for quite a while. Split Second is an opportunity to facilitate a collaboration between our curators and our online community using technology and the web to learn more about the visitor experience.  Our online experiment and resulting installation will explore how someone’s initial reaction to a work of art is affected by what they know, are asked, or are told about the object in question.

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

Photo: Armand Dijcks via Flickr. Licensed CC-BY-NC-SA

This project’s main source of inspiration is Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking.  The book explores the power and pitfalls of initial reactions. After reading it, I started to wonder how the same theories might apply to a visitor’s reaction to a work of art. How does a person’s split-second reaction to a work of art change with the addition of typical museum interpretive text? As visitors walk through our galleries, what kind of work are they drawn to? And if they stop, look, read, or respond, how does their opinion of that work change?

Over the course of the next several months, I’ll be blogging more about the concepts and choices we’ve made in developing an online activity to collect data on this, so stay tuned. In the meantime, we’d love it if you would take part. By participating, you’re helping determine the content of a small installation of Indian paintings—along with an analysis of the data we get on the questions above—opening in July 2011. The more data we have, the better the installation will be, so we’d be grateful if you’d help us spread the word by encouraging others to contribute a few minutes of their time.

The online activity is ready and waiting for you. It will be up until April 14, 2011, at midnight (Eastern Standard Time).