Microsoft and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP), Bengaluru, has announced the launch of a new artificial intelligence-powered platform for connecting artworks and cultures around the world. The platform, Interwoven, is claimed to be rooted in MAP’s collection of South Asian textiles and was developed as part of Microsoft’s AI for Cultural Heritage initiative. It leverages technology to empower people and organisations dedicated to the preservation and enrichment of art and culture.
Previous projects under the initiative have involved improving accessibility through the Open Access collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and the digital restoration of ‘Ancient Olympia’, in collaboration with the Government of Greece. The Museum of Art and Photography in Bengaluru is the first project under this initiative in India.
Been in the making for over a year, Interwoven brings together collections from key institutions and partners across the world alongside MAP’s (including the V&A, London, MET, New York, Rietberg, Zürich and the Royal Ontario Museum in Canada) to reveal connections between artworks from different cultures, mediums and time periods. It aims to represent visually and intuitively, encouraging further exploration, discovery and cross-cultural exchange.
The platform works by providing users two options. The first (Curated Journeys) allows the user to view predefined journeys, created primarily by MAP’s educational and research arm – the MAP Academy. These combine relationships between global artefacts suggested by the AI, which are then researched and expanded further by individual curators. It is an explorative model for how AI might be used in museology and art historical research. These cover a range of themes and subjects, from ideas of anti-imperialism to representations of women, to explorations of leisure. One of the journeys, for instance, even traces the forms and functions of handbags across different cultures and time-periods, shedding light on their associations with ideas of community, convenience and haute couture.
The second option (Custom Journeys) invites general users to explore the platform to stumble upon meaningful and sometimes even surprising visual connections. It provides a new way to engage with culture and learn more about the history of textiles and fashion and their relationship to global exchange.
The MAP Academy, who are the knowledge partners of Interwoven have been leading the research and curated content of the project along with Microsoft. The MAP Academy is dedicated to making the histories of South Asian art more accessible and inclusive, for audiences within the Indian subcontinent and around the world. As part of the project, the MAP Academy has also developed a free, introductory online course on South Asian textiles, for a global audience, to further contextualize the impact and relevance of textiles – addressing everything from fashion, the environment and global exchange.