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Italy’s Art Museums Are Open Again, and Big Data Is Watching

As art lovers return to Italian galleries and exhibitions, newly installed technology at one Bologna museum is keeping track of how people look at paintings.

As Italy reopens, one museum in Bologna is experimenting with camera technology that watches how visitors take in artwork.
Photographer: Alessia Pierdomenico/Bloomberg

As Italy’s museums and galleries welcome back tourists and try to recoup some of the 190 million euros ($225 million) in revenue they lost last year, a new data project could help curators understand which paintings and sculptures will be their biggest draws.

A research team at the country’s new-technologies agency ENEA has developed a system based on devices that can calculate how long and how closely museum and gallery visitors observe a particular work of art.