Emory Report
February 21, 2005
Volume 57, Number 20


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February 21, 2005
Carlos Museum adds self-guided audio tour to collection

BY allison germaneso dixon

On March 1, the Carlos Museum will add an entirely new dimension of learning and enjoyment to its permanent collections: a random-access MP3 audio tour.

The MP3 format will allow visitors to hear from experts at the touch of a button—and will even allow some of the objects themselves, in the case of ancient musical instruments, to be heard. Made possible with a grant from the Morgens-West Foundation, the new tool will provide valuable, multidisciplinary insight to 60 objects through the commentary of Carlos curators and conservators and Emory scholars.

Objects included in the audio guide will be marked with an icon; by entering each object’s guide number, visitors can create their own unique path through the collections of ancient American, Greek and Roman, Egyptian, African and Asian art.

Visitors can rent a small MP3 player at the first-floor reception desk for a fee of $3 (museum members will have unlimited free usage). Use of the audio guide will be free to Emory students, faculty and staff through Commencement on May 16.

To produce the tour, the museum joined with Antenna Audio, a company that specializes in providing audio accompaniment to cultural attractions such as museums and archeological sites.

“We are delighted to have been asked to work with the Michael C. Carlos Museum,” said Andrew Nugée, Antenna’s chief executive. “The collection is unique, and each of the objects has its unique story to tell. Our hope is that the audio tour will help visitors better appreciate the objects, their context and importance and thus broaden their lasting appeal.”

The audio tour is designed to make visitors feel as if they’re taking a personal, conversational walk through the galleries with the curators. Some Emory experts offering audio commentary include Peter Bing, associate professor of classics; Gay Robins; professor of art history; and Laurie Patton, professor of Indian religions.

These scholars provide added dimensions to objects in the collections by placing them in broader religious,
literary, historical and art historical contexts: Bing reads from Euripides’ play Melannipe Sophe, which helps to illuminate a Greek vase that depicts characters from the play. Associate Professor Rudolph Byrd reads passages from the Book of Kings to bring to life a small bronze statue of Taharka, the Nubian pharaoh who ruled Egypt during the 25th Dynasty. The initial tour includes more than 90 minutes of commentary, and its random-access format allows for additions as the collections continue to grow.

“It is really wonderful technology for the museum setting,” said Elizabeth Hornor, the museum’s director of education. “You are able to look at the object while experts tell you about what you are seeing, as if they were speaking directly to you. It can direct you to a detail you might otherwise miss, or introduce you to something really special about an object, like the sound made by the tiny ceramic bat flute in the ancient American galleries.”

For more information, or to request to hear a sample tour stop via e-mailable audio file, contact Allison Dixon at 404-727-4291 or agdixon@emory.edu.