Mumbai, June 18 Microsoft and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP), Bengaluru have announced the launch of a new artificial intelligence-powered platform called INTERWOVEN for connecting artworks and cultures globally. 

The platform is rooted in MAP’s collection of South Asian textiles and was developed as part of Microsoft’s AI for Cultural Heritage initiative.

The AI for Cultural Heritage initiative leverages technology to empower people and organisations dedicated to the preservation and enrichment of art and culture.

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 are some of the previous projects under the initiative.

The Museum of Art and Photography in Bengaluru is the first project under this initiative in India.

“INTERWOVEN has been over a year in the making and 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,” Microsoft said in a statement.

The platform represents these visually and intuitively, encouraging further exploration, discovery and cross-cultural exchange.

Kamini Sawhney, Director, MAP, said “Covid 19 and the lockdown really forced us to reflect on how people interacted with the online space. Right from week one, we began looking at how we could engage with our online communities.”

“After the pandemic, a primary aspect of our mission is to use the digital realm to connect with people across the country, and the world. We’re rethinking the idea of museums. They cannot be mere repositories of objects. MAP will not just be a collection of objects, but a space for ideas and conversations that are initiated through our collections. INTERWOVEN fits securely within this vision” added Sawhney.

Rohini Srivathsa, National Technology Officer at Microsoft India, said, “INTERWOVEN is a project that is deeply impactful to society, culture, and heritage. The project interweaves technology with art, using AI to find shared histories in artistic traditions from different corners of the globe, particularly pertaining to something as rich and complex as textiles.”

“Our approach to AI centers around meaningful innovation and this project beautifully allows art to be more accessible and inclusive for people around the world. We stay committed to using technology to help celebrate and preserve culture as part of our AI for Cultural Heritage initiative,” added Srivathsa.

How it works

The platform provides users two options. The first (Curated Journeys) allows them 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,” it explained.

These cover a host of themes and subjects, from ideas of anti-imperialism to representations of women, to explorations of leisure. 

The second option is Custom Journeys.

“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,” it said.

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 organisation 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 audiences. 

“Understanding these broader contexts should add greater value to INTERWOVEN’S users, who can then use the platform to further recognise the extent to which technology can open up new possibilities for art historical research in the future,” it further added.

Microsoft’s AI for Cultural Heritage initiative is part of Microsoft’s AI for Good initiative, a $125 million, 5-year commitment. It is comprised of five programs: in addition to AI for Cultural Heritage, it includes AI for Earth, AI for Accessibility, AI for Humanitarian Action and AI for Health.