By Zachary Roman
The Minden Hills Cultural Centre has been using an artificial intelligenceprogram called DeOldify to restore old photographs with colour thenposting them to Facebook for the community to view from the comfort andsafety of their own home.
Shannon Quigley curatorial programmingassistant at the centre is in charge of this new initiative. As of May12 there were 27 photos in the centre’s “History in Colour” album.Quigley said that she will be posting new colourized pictures everyTuesday Thursday and Saturday until the end of May.
“When I saw this digital program for colourizing images I thought it would be a greatway to enliven the museum’s collection of historic photos” saidQuigley. “COVID-19 has prompted a lot of cultural institutions toembrace new and creative ways to make collections available online.We’re using Facebook and our new blog to give people ways to enjoy andget inspired by museum collections at home while feeling connected totheir community.”
Quigley said that people have been using paint toadd colour to black and white pictures since photography was invented.However DeOldify relies completely on artificial intelligence. Thecomputer decides what the colours should be based on information it canread in the photographs. They aren’t always 100 per cent accurate butQuigley said they have a magical quality that draws you in and sparksthe imagination.
“I like how adding colour gives us a new view of anold scene and encourages us to look at the photographs more closely”said Quigley. “There’s also been a bit of a debate about which is better – black and white or colour.”
One Facebook commenter FayWilkinson said “I have to say there is something about the black andwhite pictures that the colour seems not to capture.” Another commenter Daniel Manley said “the colours bring it totally to life! Wow.”
Some Facebook commenters have even expressed interest in buying copies ofthe coloured photos. Quigley said the cultural centre will look intothis once they reopen to the public and can scan the photos at a higherresolution.
“Museums and galleries have relied on having a physicalspace – a place where people can see an exhibition with friends and then chat about it in the café. We’re spending more and more of our timeonline and these conversations are moving online too. If museums want to be part of the conversation we need to find ways to do that online”said Quigley. “That’s why I think the comments section on Facebook is so great. It’s just like turning to the person next to you in a museum and striking up a conversation. When people start chatting with each otherin the comments section you know you’ve succeeded in enabling people to connect with those around them.”
Quigley said she likes how puttingcontent on Facebook makes the museum part of people’s everyday lives and that it’s been really nice to see people sharing their love andknowledge of local history. Quigley said commenters were quick to pickup on details in the photos and relate them to their own family storiesand memories of Minden.
“The goal behind these digital projects is to allow people to enjoy and get inspired by the museum’s collection fromhome and feel connected to their community” said Quigley.
If you want to connect with the Minden Hills Cultural Centre or see their updated collection of colourized photos check out https://www.facebook.com/