Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Museums

Webinar  Reading List


The use of artificial intelligence (AI) in museums has been a topic of much discussion and speculation in recent years. From virtual tour guides to digitization projects, it seems that there is no limit to the potential uses of AI in the museum sector. However, it is important to approach the subject with a critical and reflexive mindset, taking into account both the potential benefits and potential drawbacks of using AI in museums.

It is also worth acknowledging that having an AI write this introduction may feel like a well-worn cliché. While the use of AI in museums is a relevant and important topic, it is important to be mindful of the ways in which AI is being used and to consider the potential consequences of these uses. With these considerations in mind, let us delve into the potential uses and impact of AI in museums.


The above paragraphs were written by Open AI’s Chat GPT in response to the prompt, “write a critically reflexive introduction to a blog post about the potential uses and impacts of AI for museums that also acknowledges that it is a well-worn cliché to have an AI write this.” From social media profile pictures, to new articles about AI-based text-to-image generation, to website copy, you have probably seen or heard of AI in the past year. In 2023, it seems highly likely that AI and its impact on society will be an even bigger topic of discussion.

Since more than 80% of Canadians view museums as trusted sources of information, it is important that museum professionals and volunteers stay up-to-date with major technological and societal trends. Below you will find a curated list of readings to help you better understand and critically engage with AI and AI-based tools. As with all technologies, we should carefully evaluate a tool’s benefits with its costs and as you’ll see in these readings, the human cost of AI can be extremely high.

Webinar Recording:

Reading List:

What is AI?

From IBM, What is artificial intelligence (AI), “At its simplest form, artificial intelligence is a field, which combines computer science and robust datasets, to enable problem-solving. It also encompasses sub-fields of machine learning and deep learning, which are frequently mentioned in conjunction with artificial intelligence. These disciplines are comprised of AI algorithms which seek to create expert systems which make predictions or classifications based on input data.”

AI and Colonialism:

The impact of AI is repeating patterns of colonial exploitation. From MIT Technology Review, “European colonialism, they say, was characterized by the violent capture of land, extraction of resources, and exploitation of people—for example, through slavery—for the economic enrichment of the conquering country. While it would diminish the depth of past traumas to say the AI industry is repeating this violence today, it is now using other, more insidious means to enrich the wealthy and powerful at the great expense of the poor.”

From MIT Technology Review on data-labelling: “The insatiable demand has created a need for a broad base of cheap labour to manually tag videos, sort photos, and transcribe audio. The market value of sourcing and coordinating that “ghost work,” as it was memorably dubbed by anthropologist Mary Gray and computational social scientist Siddharth Suri, is projected to reach $13.7 billion by 2030.”

MIT Technology Review: How the AI industry profits from catastrophe

More on data labels

“By mid-2018, an estimated 200,000 Venezuelans had registered for Hive Micro and Spare5, making up 75% of their respective workforces.”

“The windfalls come just often enough to make her average income tenable. But they’re also rare enough to keep her tethered to her computer. If a good task appears, there are only seconds to claim it, and she can’t afford to lose the opportunity. Once, while out on a walk, she missed a task that would have made her $100. Now she restricts her walks to weekends, having learned that clients usually post tasks during their working hours.”

“Annotators in North Africa, where the platform has expanded in the last two years, say the same: Scale has reduced their pay by more than a third in a matter of months and withheld or even taken away earnings, leaving some workers with negative pending payments (in other words, they owe Scale money), according to screenshots provided to MIT Technology Review.”

“After two hours of work, which included completing a tutorial and 20 tasks for a penny each, Andrea Paola Hernández, the Venezuela-based reporter on this article, earned 0.11 US dollars. Park says workers in Venezuela earn an average of a little more than 90 cents an hour.”

MIT Technology Review: The gig workers fighting back against the algorithms

Interesting, but more focused broadly on how technology is being used to exploit labour and how workers are pushing back.

MIT Technology Review: A new vision of artificial intelligence for the people

“Data sovereignty is thus the latest example of Indigenous resistance—against colonizers, against the nation-state, and now against big tech companies. “The nomenclature might be new, the context might be new, but it builds on a very old history,” Kukutai says.”

CTV News Montreal: 'Technology is a reflection of society': Quebec researchers study racism and colonialism within AI

In Gentelet's opinion, "it participates in a recolonization because technology is a reflection of society."

Internet Policy Review: 'Artificial intelligence and consent: a feminist anti-colonial critique

Feminist theories have extensively debated consent in sexual and political contexts. But what does it mean to consent when we are talking about our data bodies feeding artificial intelligence (AI) systems? This article builds a feminist and anti-colonial critique about how an individualistic notion of consent is being used to legitimate practices of the so-called emerging Digital Welfare States, focused on digitalisation of anti-poverty programmes. The goal is to expose how the functional role of digital consent has been enabling data extractivist practices for control and exclusion, another manifestation of colonialism embedded in cutting-edge digital technology.

Open AI

MIT Technology Review: The messy, secretive reality behind OpenAI’s bid to save the world

In the four short years of its existence, OpenAI has become one of the leading AI research labs in the world. It has made a name for itself producing consistently headline-grabbing research, alongside other AI heavyweights like Alphabet’s DeepMind. It is also a darling in Silicon Valley, counting Elon Musk and legendary investor Sam Altman among its founders.

AI and Museums

AAM: Museums and AI: Is There a Ghost in the Machine?

What are the ethical implications of AI? What role do museums play in the global conversation about data privacy? How can bias impact AI systems?

Museum Next: How are museums using artificial intelligence, and is AI the future of museums?

Artificial intelligence has been a topic of discussion in museums for some time. At MuseumNext 2018 in London, Sara Boutall of big-data analytics service Dexibit said, “AI has been seeping into our lives, often without us actually realizing, on a daily basis. And we use it to accomplish absolutely fundamental tasks”

The Museums + AI Network

The Museums + AI Network was a 12 month action research project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (UK). Our initial research took place between 2019 – 2020, with subsequent dissemination and facilitation in academic and museum contexts.

AI and Artists

Motherboard: Artists Are Revolting Against AI Art on ArtStation

Artists are fed up with AI art on the portfolio platform, which is owned by Epic Games, but the company isn't backing down.

Environmental Impact of AI:

McGill: Is AI good or bad for the climate? It’s complicated News

As the world fights climate change, will the increasingly widespread use of artificial intelligence (AI) be a help or a hindrance? In a paper published this week in Nature Climate Change, a team of experts in AI, climate change, and public policy present a framework for understanding the complex and multifaceted relationship of AI with greenhouse gas emissions, and suggest ways to better align AI with climate change goals.

The Future of AI:

Vox: Think AI was impressive last year? Wait until you see what’s coming.

Artificial intelligence experts foresee another year of breakthroughs. Is the world ready?

nvidia: Top 5 Edge AI Trends to Watch in 2023

With the state of the world under constant flux in 2022, some technology trends were put on hold while others were accelerated. Supply chain challenges, labor shortages and economic uncertainty had companies reevaluating their budgets for new technology...

ars, Technica: Microsoft’s new AI can simulate anyone’s voice with 3 seconds of audio

Text-to-speech model can preserve speaker's emotional tone and acoustic environment.

ars, Technica: AI image generation tech can now create life-wrecking deepfakes with ease

AI tech makes it trivial to generate harmful fake photos from a few social media pictures.