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

FIFA Indictments Put Gold Cup Tournament Under Cloud

Experts say US indictments could lead to charges of other world soccer officials, and lead to major shakeup in sport's governance More

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

At a recent even in Seoul, border communities promoted benefits of increased cooperation and North Korean defectors shared stories of life since the war More

Video VOA EXCLUSIVE: Iraq President Vows to Fight IS 'Until They Are Killed or We Die'

In wide-ranging interview with VOA Persian service reporter, Fuad Masum describes conflict as new type of fight that will take time to win 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.
Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs