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Louisiana's digital encyclopedia gives QR codes to hundreds of artist entries

Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities

The Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities has added a new feature to its expanding digital encyclopedia of Louisiana history and culture -- KnowLA. The LEH is distributing downloadable QR codes to museums statewide. The barcode can be printed and mounted alongside artwork. By scanning it with a smartphone, it takes the viewer from the static piece of art into the rich, interconnected encyclopedia entry.  LEH president Michael Sartisky said there are 276 artist entries in KnowLA -- all of them with QR codes – from folk artist Clementine Hunter to Shreveport illustrator Bill Joyce.

“In the R.W. Norton Art Gallery, if there is a beautiful Felix Kelly painting of a riverboat on display, and they post the QR code, viewers coming by with their handheld device can just click on that QR code and be connected to all of this," Sartisky said.

Sartisky finds that museums are trying to streamline the amount of interpretive material they present about the art on display. The trend is less is more. The QR code fits the bill, Sartisky said, by linking the museum goer into a wealth of material about an artist or work, only if they choose to know more.

“You do want the works to speak for themselves. You don’t want to clutter the walls up with tremendous amounts of interpretive materials," Sartisky said. "This simple, little QR code – that little crazy looking square – is a portal into this enormous resource.”

The LEH is continually adding to KnowLA.org. Sartisky hopes to get it up to 1,000 entries by the end of the year. Louisiana art is one of more than 20 topics. Sartisky jokes that it’s possible the living artists in KnowLA could get a tattoo of their QR code... and wear their story on their arm.

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