By Pamela Curtin
According to Greek mythology, Clio was the muse of history, one of a number of muses who protected the arts and sciences. It follows that a modern website and mobile app named Clio would have strong ties to the arts. As an AmeriCorps member with Clio, a nonprofit digital platform that connects the public to historic and cultural sites, I have had the pleasure of working with arts organizations to share public works of art, galleries, and studios.
Last year, I worked with Sally Deskins, Exhibits and Programs Coordinator at WVU Libraries, to create a Clio tour of Morgantown art. Sally has helped turn WVU’s extensive library system into showcases for art. With her leadership, WVU Libraries hosts art exhibits featuring modern and historic photography, paintings, and multimedia pieces, often focusing on West Virginia and Appalachia. This spring, Sally received a Grant for Community Engagement from the WVU Research Office to create a public art guide of Morgantown. In addition to a printed guide, Sally was interested in creating a digital version that would be accessible online. This is where Clio enters the story.
Clio lends itself well to collaborative projects. Anyone can find historic and cultural sites in their area that would contribute to Clio’s growing database. It is easy to make contributions to the website – no different than filling out an online form – which helps users like museums and students devote their time to doing research and writing. As a free platform, Clio allows grantees to put funds toward scholars, student interns, or printed materials. Clio entries and tours can also be integrated with exhibits, programs, and printed walking tours. Earlier this year, I created Clio tours as part of a WVU Libraries photography exhibit on Sunnyside, a historic neighborhood in Morgantown.
I was excited when Sally reached out about using Clio to create a digital Morgantown Public Art Guide. There are more than thirty public works of art around Morgantown created by everyone from student volunteers to world-renowned professionals. A number of these works, however, have no accompanying label or significant online presence. With print and digital guides, we could document and better engage the public with art in their backyard. Sally said of this endeavor, “By first digging deeper into the historical context of the sites and works, we really understand more fully the significance of each work individually, and of this project as a whole.”
Each work of art, along with local arts institutions, received a Clio entry. The Clio entry includes a narrative, images, sources, links to related content, and a pin connected to GPS coordinates. If you are in Morgantown, Clio’s website and mobile app will pick up your location and show the entries closest to you; or, you can simply search “Morgantown, WV” from anywhere in the country and the entries will appear. These entries are then strung together in a digital tour that follows a route using Google Maps.
We started developing entries in Clio’s flexible and collaborative platform. “Clio helped us visualize how the print guide might be organized and the tours arranged by seeing them on the map,” Sally explained. “It has served as a ‘home base’ for the project, where all of the information is organized nicely and we can see our progress. With limited resources, as well, Clio allowed us to do all of this for free! How amazing is that.”
Works of art range from a sculptures of basketball players at the Coliseum to mosaics along the Rail Trail to murals curated by the Friends of Deckers Creek. The entries explore the history and artistic styles of these pieces, their development and placement in certain locations, and biographies of artists and project leaders. Sites like libraries and university buildings are also included on the tour, as many of them house indoor paintings, sculptures, murals, textiles, and rotating exhibits. A number of arts institutions including art centers, museums, galleries, and studios are identified along with a discussion of their respective history and mission. Clio entries can also link readers to ways to get involved with these organizations.
Sally worked with student interns and volunteers to develop the Clio entries. “It has been a great experience for the several students working on the project as well as for myself,” she said. Other important collaborators include the Greater Morgantown Convention and Visitors Bureau, Arts Monongahela, the Art Museum of WVU and the College of Creative Arts.
“Clio has been kind of like the back bone of the Morgantown Public Art Guide project,” Sally said.
The print and digital versions of the Morgantown Public Art Guide are set to launch this fall.
As an AmeriCorps member, it has been wonderful working with Sally on the Morgantown Public Art Guide. I am grateful that my AmeriCorps site could provide her with the tools to realize her vision for this project.
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