An AR app returns stolen Gardner paintings to their frames

An AR app returns stolen Gardner paintings to their frames
Hacking the Heist’ superimposes the paintings using Apple’s ARKit
Cuseum

In the early hours of March 18th, 1990, two men dressed as police officers pulled up to a side entrance of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. They claimed that they were responding to a report of a disturbance. A guard let them in, and 81 minutes later, the two thieves had absconded with thirteen works of art valued at over $500 million, cutting priceless paintings out of their frames.

The “Gardner heist,” as it’s come to be known, is one of the most famous art thefts in history. It’s also the biggest one that remains unsolved. Decades later, it still captures the public’s attention every time it’s in the news. Multiple books have been written about the case over the years; a true crime podcast called “Empty Frames” launched in February that aims to take a fresh look at all the evidence and perhaps eventually solve the case.

The empty frames still hang on the walls of the Gardner Museum, a potent and haunting reminder of what was lost in this theft. But now, a firm called Cuseum is using AR to restore these priceless pieces of art to the walls of the Gardner Museum — at least, digitally.

Cuseum works to make museums and other cultural institutions more accessible through the use of cutting-edge technology. One example is the ability to digitally guide visitors through spaces without a language barrier. “Imagine if museums could clone their best guide or docent, have them available 24/7, and with the ability to speak multiple languages,” Brendan Ciecko, the founder of Cuseum, explained to Engadget. “Our platform empowers museums to do that.”

Ciecko’s team had long been fascinated by the Gardner heist. “Recently, after testing some new prototypes at a local museum and showing my team the results, one of my colleagues suggested the idea of putting the stolen art back in the frames at the Gardner,” Ciecko said. “I was psyched to explore this concept further — the opportunity to explore something new, the technological challenge, and the idea of returning something to its rightful home. Additionally, Isabella Stewart Gardner was a true innovator of her time, and what better way to celebrate her pioneering spirit, and return her beloved collection back to its original state, even if only through a digital lens.”

“Hacking the Heist” is an independent passion project for the team at Cuseum. It wasn’t paid for by and is not affiliated with the Gardner Museum. The app that was developed using Apple’s ARKit. “Once Apple’s ARKit was released it marked a new chapter for app developers,” Ciecko explained. “Compared to other frameworks, the quality and stability was incredibly promising right from the start. With the latest release, ARKit 1.5, Apple introduced vertical surface detection and on-device image recognition, which were key components needed to make this project possible.”

The app isn’t publicly available yet — the Cuseum team is waiting for iOS 11.3, which supports this type of AR, to be released. Once it is, though, visitors to the museum with iOS devices will be able to download the app. Once they’ve pulled it up, they can aim their smartphone or tablet at the empty frames where these priceless paintings once hung. Through an imaginative use of AR, the app will fill in the blanks — quite literally. People will be able to see what the missing paintings looked like hanging on the walls of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

The app currently only covers two of the most popular missing paintings: “A Lady and Gentleman in Black” and “Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee,” which were both painted by Rembrandt. The latter is his only known seascape. However, the team at Cuseum hopes to add more of the missing art in the future.

“Hacking the Heist” isn’t the only augmented reality project that Cuseum is working on, either. The company is developing more AR tools with multiple museums across North America to enhance visitor experiences. At the Perez Art Museum in Miami, the team at Cuseum recently helped launch both the first instance of ARKit in a museum, as well as the “world’s first fully AR-powered museum exhibition.” It features the works of Miami-based artist Felice Grodin and contains four digital works that examine the relationship between the mental and the physical.

It’s clear that augmented reality can affect and enhance the way we interact with museums and cultural institutions. With the Gardner Museum in particular, AR can educate visitors about the theft and help complete their experiences by “filling in” the paintings that are missing. “We hope people feel a deeper connection with the works that would have otherwise been hanging in the empty frames,” Ciecko concluded. “Many visitors are either unaware of the heist and its magnitude, or don’t know what the stolen masterpieces even looked like. We also hope this inspires people to think about the ways in which technology can show us things that no longer exist and transform the experience we have at those moments.”

https://www.engadget.com/2018/03/26/gardner-heist-stolen-paintings-arkit/

 

Start the discussion at https://forum.vi-mm.eu

About The Author

Eleni Kirioti

Eleni Kyrioti is an archaeologist and art historian and worked in field archaeology and galleries in Greece. She is also a Certified Creative and Cultural Sector projects' Specialist in Cultural Heritage. The Master Studies in Education of children with Special educational needs offered her the opportunity to observe how in museums and archaeological places these children can develop cognitive, social and creative skills. Her research interest also focus in Incluseum ( how museums can be more inclusive for all children) and technology applications in Culture and Education. Previously, she worked at the project «Digitization and Configuration Services for the Internet "of the Act" Enrichment of Digital Collections of Mobile Monuments of the Ministry of Culture and Sport in Greece and Development of a New Information System of the National Monument Archives». Additional, she was teaching Ancient and Modern Greek plus Latin for many years and was also collaborating with Educational Technology Companies as an educator – writer.

Upcoming Events

Apr
12
Thu
all-day European Borders and Encounter R... @ Vienna
European Borders and Encounter R... @ Vienna
Apr 12 – Apr 14 all-day
Conference on the occasion of the European Year of Cultural Heritage 2018 in Vienna from April 12th till 14th, 2018 The conference is organized by the local organizing comitee that includes Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Schmale[...]
9:30 VIMM PROJECT: DIGITAL CULTURAL H...
VIMM PROJECT: DIGITAL CULTURAL H...
Apr 12 @ 9:30 – Apr 13 @ 17:00
VIMM PROJECT: DIGITAL CULTURAL HERITAGE EXPERTS MILESTONE MEETING IN BERLIN, GERMANY 12-13/4/2018
A two(2)-day Coordination meeting to be held in Berlin on 12 and 13 April 2018.  The meeting will be hosted by Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz, our ViMM beneficiary. The main objective of this meeting will be[...]
Apr
13
Fri
8:00 LCCHP Annual Conference @ Georgetown University Law Center
LCCHP Annual Conference @ Georgetown University Law Center
Apr 13 @ 8:00 – 18:00
LCCHP Annual Conference @ Georgetown University Law Center
The Lawyers’ Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation is proudly co-sponsoring the event with Georgetown Art Law Association. Details about the conference are forthcoming.  Call for Submissions for LCCHP Annual Conference Each year, LCCHP strives to present legal, ethical, moral,[...]
Apr
15
Sun
all-day BRAU CONFERENCE @ Famagusta Gate
BRAU CONFERENCE @ Famagusta Gate
Apr 15 – Apr 17 all-day
Biennial of Architectural and urban restoration Find more details and the program below. POSTER BRAU Programme
Apr
18
Wed
all-day International Day on Monuments a...
International Day on Monuments a...
Apr 18 all-day
International Day on Monuments and Sites
Every year on 18 April, ICOMOS celebrates the International Day for Monuments and Sites, whose establishment was approved by the 22nd UNESCO General Conference in 1983.
all-day The annual conference of Museum... @ at the Sheraton Vancouver Wall Centre
The annual conference of Museum... @ at the Sheraton Vancouver Wall Centre
Apr 18 – Apr 21 all-day
The annual conference of  Museums and the web -MW 2018 @ at the Sheraton Vancouver Wall Centre
About MW Conferences The MW (Museums and the Web) conferences convene annually in North America and Asia. Our meetings and proceedings feature advanced research and exemplary applications of digital practice for cultural, natural and scientific heritage.[...]
May
9
Wed
all-day Expert seminar on issues related... @ Sofia
Expert seminar on issues related... @ Sofia
May 9 – May 10 all-day
Subject: “International and interinstitutional cooperation in the prevention of crimes involving cultural property”
May
10
Thu
9:00 REACH Opening Conference in Buda... @ Hungarian National Museum
REACH Opening Conference in Buda... @ Hungarian National Museum
May 10 @ 9:00 – May 11 @ 17:30
REACH Opening Conference in Budapest @ Hungarian National Museum
DESCRIPTION The event is organised by the REACH Social Platform, under the coordination of ELTE University, Eötvös Loránd Tudomanyegyetem Conference contacts: Eszter György, [email protected]; +3630 278 27 31 Gábor Oláh, [email protected]; +3630 456 62 98[...]
May
13
Sun
all-day 5th Hyperheritage International ... @ University of Constantine 3
5th Hyperheritage International ... @ University of Constantine 3
May 13 – May 15 all-day
5th Hyperheritage International Symposium : Heritage and experience design in the digital age Find out more details here
May
18
Fri
all-day International Museum Day
International Museum Day
May 18 all-day
International Museum Day 2018 The worldwide community of museums will celebrate International Museum Day on and around 18 May 2018. The theme chosen for 2018 is “Hyperconnected museums: New approaches, new publics“. The objective of[...]
REGISTER NOW!