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Interactive Annual 17:
information design

Mural Explorer

Launch Live Site

“The site expertly guides viewers through some amazing public works without getting in the way. Not always an easy feat.” —Jill Nussbaum


Overview: Philadelphia’s Mural Arts Program (MAP) is well-regarded as one of the nation’s largest and most effective public arts programs; in its over 25-year history, it’s created over 3,000 murals and educated over 20,000 underserved youth throughout Philadelphia. Each map mural is the result of a collaborative community process in which artists, residents and students come together to beautify their community and tell their stories. To every day passersby, the stories behind them are not always apparent; the Mural Explorer is an experiential online catalog of murals that reveals the narratives behind the art. Visitors can zoom-in to view the tiniest details (that they would never see from the ground), learning facts and hearing anecdotes as they explore. Points of interest are plotted on the murals and each is augmented by video, making-of photos, and audio clips.

  • • For most projects, having a lot of great content is a fantastic luxury; for this site, it was perhaps the greatest challenge. During an extensive content audit, the team cataloged tens of thousands of assets-from poems and photo series to video clips and audio interviews-all varying in quality and format.
  • • The installation uses 4 high-definition 1400 X 1050 projectors, 15 LCD 23" displays, 12 barcode readers, 1 Mac Pro and 1 Windows PC.
  • • The site features 29 murals, each complemented with a number of images, audio clips and videos. Each mural has between 1 and 14 main images and each main image is cut into over 200 250 X 250 pixel tiles that make up the zoomable images.

Comments by Josh Goldblum

What was the most challenging aspect of the project? “In their 25-year history, Mural Arts has created over 3,000 murals and produced massive amounts of documentation and content. Prior to this project, they had done little to actually organize or curate it. Most of it was stored somewhat haphazardly on increasingly larger servers and hard-drives. Given that their staff was rightly occupied creating new masterpieces of public art, much of the formatting, organization and curation of the Web site content fell to us. Our challenge was not only to cull through terabytes of images and video, but also to associate all of this content to the murals and communicate our findings to the client. Through this process, we not only organized their content, but also helped them better tell their story.”

Did you use technology that you hadn’t used before? “In order to associate content on these massive murals, we built a custom image zooming and annotation tool. This tool was initially built on Zoomify but was later reformatted using OpenZoom, which added much more flexibility and improved performance. We also built a custom Flash-based admin tool for adding hotspots. This allowed the client to easily set zoom levels, add tags and associate images in an intuitive interface.”

Credits

Troy Lachance, lead designer
Josh Goldblum, creative director
Jason Grandelli, programmer
Rebecca Sherman, producer
Stacey Wiley, production designer
Bluecadet Interactive (Philadelphia, PA), project design and development
Mural Arts Program, client


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