By Andrew Cannon and Chloe Gittins
MA Art Gallery and Museum Studies, University of Manchester

As we walked into the Rijksmuseum, and into the Rembrandt section, we both immediately noticed museum staff working on a painting, accompanied by Macro – X ray Fluorescence Spectrometry Technology. They appeared to be scanning the painting using this form of technology. There was very little signage, apart from one small panel located in the corner of the section. It was quite unclear to the many visitors who had gathered around and sat on the bench that they had provided as to what they were doing. It is only with research after the event that it became clear that they were scanning for hidden messages and new images that may have been concealed within the painting. Even though it did attract visitors, it took a lot of attention from some of the other pieces of artwork that were nearby. The painting that was being scanned was large, but the machinery covered up nearly all of it which made it challenging to see which painting it was.

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Despite this, we really liked the use of this piece of innovative technology within the museum space during visitor hours. It raised a lot of questions and became a central viewing point in itself. The use of benches by the museum staff was forward thinking and encouraged visitors to watch and engage with usually unseen museum practice. It also showed the Rijksmuseum to be at the forefront of both research and technology, actively using their collection along with modern technology to provide new insights into the objects on display. This piece of equipment was used to promote a different approach to ‘public engagement’ in the technological age and was very interesting for visitors at the Rijksmuseum on our field trip at the end of February of this year.

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