October 15, 2014

Innovation on the Home Front


The typical museum is not known for being technology-rich. The common experience consists of artifacts in prescribed places, placards, designated hallways and galleries, and security guards who routinely remind you to not stand too close and to not use a flash. The Brooklyn Museum, with help from Bloomberg philanthropies, is embracing a new angle in museum interaction.

By developing mobile-ready platforms, the art museum’s goal is to create a dynamic and responsive experience that fosters dialogue and conversation between staff and museum visitors. They will develop a dynamic and responsive tool in an atmosphere that is not known for being dynamic or responsive.

Over the next three years, visitors will become empowered to ask questions using their mobile devices. As they explore, experts will be available to answer messages sent in real time. Location aware technology will denote where a question is coming from so that the staff knows the work of art the visitor is seeing and can better answer their question. And this tool that they will build will be an easy download from the Apple App Store.

This initiative is supported by Bloomberg Connects. The philanthropy behind the program recently announced that it will give $17 million over the next three years to six museums, three of them in New York. The funding is to be used to expand mobile based technology that enhances the user experience and provides user data for the museum.

According to a 2012 Mobile in Museums study conducted by the American Alliance of Museums and the Museums Associations Members, museum visitors are willing to use their mobile devices to interact with museums and this is expected to increase in the years ahead. The increase in mobile friendly museums will attract more visitors, giving institutions a needed expansion in audience.

The Brooklyn Museum has some clear goals for tracking and expanding its audience participation:

“As people connect with us using the platform, it gives us a window into our visitor experience and how well (or not) things are working throughout our galleries. By looking at trends within the information exchanged, we can re-examine existing information provided in our galleries and make changes accordingly to better serve all visitors, including those who never use a mobile device during their visit.”

With this funding, the six museums will move further into the 21st century. New experiences will allow a greater diversity of museum identities to emerge, even inside the same institution. And this novelty will only help drive the museums toward greater audience impact.