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

Russia Names US NGO 'Undesirable'

Prosecutors determine activities of National Endowment for Democracy to be 'undesirable,' paving the way for it to be outlawed on Russian territory More

Erdogan Vows 'Anti-Terror' Campaign in Syria, Iraq

Erdogan expressed confidence the 'necessary steps' will be taken by NATO leaders, who will meet Tuesday at Turkey's request More

North Korea: 'No Interest at All' in Nuke Deal

Senior US envoy Sydney Seiler visits Beijing Tuesday for talks on how to revive the stalled six-party nuclear talks with North Korea 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.
US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Wini
X
July 28, 2015 12:21 AM
The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Obama Encourages Kenya to Fix Cultures of Corruption, Discrimination

President Barack Obama bid farewell to Kenya Sunday with a major speech at as stadium outside the capital Nairobi where he called on Kenyans to change the cultures of corruption and discrimination that can hold society back. VOA East Africa Correspondent Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video California Towns Welcome Special Olympics Athletes

Cities and towns in Southern California are greeting thousands of athletes who are arriving for Special Olympics, a competition for people with intellectual disabilities. The games will run from July 25th through August 2nd. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, where athletes from Namibia, Singapore and Tanzania got a rousing welcome from local residents.
Video

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.
Video

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.
Video

Video Hoverbike Flying Toward Reality

Another long-standing dream of many technological inventors is quickly approaching reality: U.S.- and British-based firms are cooperating in the development of an individual flying platform they call a hoverbike. They say it may revolutionize the concept of flying, including in the U.S. military. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video As Japan Expands Defense Role, Protests Follow

The Japanese government is moving forward with a controversial security bill that would authorize the military to fight abroad for the first time since World War II. Leaders say it is critical to defend against rising threats from China and North Korea. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Japan on the big changes ahead, and the opposition they are drawing.
Video

Video Replacing Poppies with Coffee in Myanmar

The remote mountains of Myanmar’s Shan state are home to the second-largest opium-producing region in the world. After a drop during the 2000s, production surged in the past eight years to feed an increasing demand for heroin in China. But farmers are now making less on the crop, and the U.N. is hoping many will make the switch to growing coffee. Daniel de Carteret reports for VOA from Taunggyi.

VOA Blogs