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Mobile in Museums- still a way to go

October 15, 2013

By Ngaire Blankenberg

I don’t think we have cracked museum mobile yet. I think there is a lot of mobile in museums, and there’s lots of cool apps from museums (such as MOMA’s impressionist one which is still an all time favourite for the ipad: http://www.moma.org/explore/mobile/abexnyapp)- but I’m not sure how successful the marriage of mobile with exhibitions is yet. I try and download apps and take mobile tours as much as possible and I have yet to find one I think has worked. Most just are complicated and then take my attention away from the exhibit I’m here to see and ask me to do things that I feel I don’t know how to do or have anything to say about at that moment. I get annoyed at apps which keep insisting I “dig deeper”. Museum exhibitions are already deep- they’re so full of content I’ve rarely been to an exhibition and felt like I’ve read or watched or heard everything. If I wanted to dig deeper than that I wouldn’t be here right now, with my grumbling family, trying to enjoy this exhibition which has the right level of depth for the hour that I have. I want apps that will enhance my experience right here, right now- not take me away from it.

Mobile App from Louvre Lens for a smartphone (http://www.culturemobile.net/louvrelens-orange/louvre-lens-appli-pour-smartphone)

Mobile App from Louvre Lens for a smartphone (http://www.culturemobile.net/louvrelens-orange/louvre-lens-appli-pour-smartphone)

The most successful mobile experience I have actually had was such a basic audio tour at the Cite de la Musique in Paris. When you saw the instruments on display you could activate the sound of the instrument playing. It was simple and beautiful and took my experience at that museum to another level. That’s what I’m talking about.

Most of us museum visitors have smartphones now. V&A’s survey in March showed that 60% of visitors are using their smartphones already to enhance their experience in the galleries. (Read more on this http://www.vam.ac.uk/b/blog/digital-media/museum-visitors-using-mobile). I’d guess probably to take photos and post to others. Or maybe just to tell the time… At any rate- I would say most of how people do use their phones in galleries has little to do with how the museum folk intend for them to use their phones in galleries.

Louvre Mobile App for iPhone

Louvre Mobile App for iPhone (http://macdailynews.com/2009/11/06/louvre_museum_

So here’s my list of what I want from a museum mobile experience (for pleasure not for professional research).
• Free wifi with a good connection (please, please please).
• Something that works at the first try without making me feel like a techno-idiot.
• Some way that I can get the tween/teen slightly interested while showing that I am still in charge and know more than they do.
• Good lighting and staging so the photos I take look deep and interesting- including the selfies.
• Some way of bookmarking content I can use later (OK- that might be my professional self talking…)- especially text. I am desperate to cut and paste exhibition text… or photos and videos.
• What other people also liked and why so I can just go there and not have to struggle through forming my own opinion.
• Something magical-that I never expected I would hear or see and I can share which will also make my friends ooh and aah and be impressed by me and it.

Anyone know where I can find this?

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Ngaire Blankenberg

About The Author

Ngaire Blankenberg is internationally recognized for her work planning innovative cultural spaces. As European Director and Principal Consultant at Lord Cultural Resources, Ngaire advises the private sector, governments and museums throughout the world on ways to develop their cultural assets for public benefit.

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