News / USA

Art Museums Go Digital For the Wired

Use of technology saves space, attracts new visitors

Using a smart phone with a camera and a special app, National Museum of the American Indian visitors can scan a smart tag graphic which takes them to links on the museum’s site.
Using a smart phone with a camera and a special app, National Museum of the American Indian visitors can scan a smart tag graphic which takes them to links on the museum’s site.

Multimedia

Susan Logue

The Luce Foundation Center for American Art is not your typical museum. It’s an open storage facility at the Smithsonian American Art Museum which houses 3,300 works of art, leaving little room for written information.

"All the interpretation has to be digital and we have a great deal of it," says Georgina Goodlander, who was tasked with finding a way to get around the space problem.

Her solution allows visitors to access information about the works and the 1,200 artists who created them at one of 10 computer stations located throughout the space.

"We have hundreds of videos, audio clips, additional photographs, all kinds of cool stuff," says Goodlander. "But the one downside of those is you have to walk away from the artwork and sit down at a kiosk, so you are no longer looking at the artwork anymore "

An audio tour was the solution to that problem. Information on almost 200 works is accessible on cell phone or mp3 players provided by the museum.

"They will take out the device for a couple of hours and go on the audio tour," says Goodlander. "The cell phone is for more casual users I think."

At the National Gallery of Art, visitors listen to the curator telling them about Leonardo da Vinci’s portrait of Ginevra de’Benci.

Recorded tours have been part of the National Gallery since the 1960s, but digital technology gives visitors more freedom. They can borrow an mp3 player at no cost and choose which works they want to learn more about by punching in a code.  

"We offer it in English and five foreign languages," says Lynn Russell, head of the gallery's education department. "And we have just developed something that has shown itself to be extremely popular."

That would be an audio tour designed for children which features 50 works in the collection, like the Shaw Memorial by 19th century American artist Augustus Saint-Gaudens, which attracted John Gordy and his 11-year-old son Max.

Digital technology gives National Gallery of Art visitor Max Gordy, 11, more options as he listens to an audio tour.
Digital technology gives National Gallery of Art visitor Max Gordy, 11, more options as he listens to an audio tour.

Max enjoyed the audio tour. "It gives you tons of background information. It makes you think of it a lot more."

"It is really huge to have stuff geared to young people," says his father, John, "because his attention span is really good, but it wavers after a while."

The audio tours are popular , but you must borrow the player.

"Our reception isn’t good everywhere inside these big stone marble buildings," says Russell. "Until we can ramp that up a little bit, I think using one’s own device, either a cell phone or a smart phone, just doesn’t seem to be the option that works best for visitors."

Inside the National Museum of the American Indian, visitors are invited to use their cell phones and smart phones in one exhibit. Symbols alongside artworks indicate additional material that's accessible through those devices.  

This graphic is a QR code or smart tag. Using a smart phone with a camera and a special app, visitors scan the graphic, and they're taken to links on the museum’s site.   

Jason Wigfield, the museum’s web developer, says smart tags provide him with information, too.

"I can see how many times one particular object is scanned versus others. So it is very good in measuring metrics on some of our visitors’ activities in relationship to viewing objects."

There are still those who just want to look at the art and they can. But museums will increasingly offer options like smart tags for those who want more.

You May Like

Polls Open in Scotland Independence Vote

As race to persuade undecided voters continues, 'No' voters say they believe life in Scotland will slowly improve, 'Yes' vote not worth the risk More

South Africa’s 'Open Mosque' Admits Everyone, Including Critics

Open Mosque founder plans to welcome gay worshipers and allow women to lead prayers More

Ukrainian Activist in Despair About Future of Her Country

IrIna Dovgan, accused of being a spy and tortured by pro-Russian separatists, is appealing to UN Human Rights Council to support her country More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Wateri
X
September 17, 2014 8:44 PM
Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid