It’s no secret the proliferation of mobile devices and persistent connectivity are changing the way we live our lives—it even impacts the way visitors experience a museum. Today I’m happy to announce that Carnegie Museum of Art’s first mobile application is available for download from the Apple App Store. Beginning this Saturday, October 5th, in association with the opening of the 2013 Carnegie International, the museum will also make iDevices available to visitors for use in our galleries (first come, first served). It is our hope that this digital offering will deepen relationships with users via the objects on view at the museum.
A Companion App for Your Museum
Launching with the 2013 Carnegie International, this first version of the CMOA companion app will allow you to learn more about the 35 artists in the exhibition, see an image of every work that will be on view, experience related video and audio, explore thematic tours of artworks, and more. The app is a universal iOS application, meaning it is available for iPod Touch, iPhone, and iPad. As this has been the museum’s first foray into mobile application development, we chose the iOS platform because we simply needed a solid and stable place to start. The application works on devices running iOS 6.1 or newer, and it is optimized for the recently released iOS 7. We encourage you to download and install the app on your device (it’s free) or borrow one of ours to use while you’re visiting.
Usefulness and Usability
As we were building the app, we designed it to be useful for visitors in the gallery as well as users experiencing the app from outside the museum. An example of this functionality is the “My Bookmarked Artwork” feature.* Think of it as a “Read Later” service for your museum visit. If you’re in the gallery enjoying an artwork and want to learn more about it, but don’t want to experience the content during your visit, you can bookmark that object for revisiting later whenever you’d like. Conversely, you can use the “My Bookmarked Artworks” area to create a checklist of must-see pieces in advance of your next visit to the museum.
We want this app to be a delight to use. From the friendly and accessible user interface to the engaging audio and videos, our hope is that users will thoroughly enjoy the app experience and come to love its underlying personality. While substantive and informative, content relating to the 2013 Carnegie International is informal by design and occasionally introduces elements of humor, wit, and the people behind the exhibition. Videos in the “CMOA TV” section shine a light on the museum’s behind-the-scenes process, again highlighting the amazing people here that make the exhibitions happen.
Interoperability and Accessibility
We understand not everyone has an iDevice and we’ve gone to great lengths to build this app so it plays nice with external platforms and the open web. Each object represented in the app also has a corresponding presence on the open web. The open web permalinks include the same images, text, videos, and audio that are in the app. When you share an artwork from inside the app with your contacts or social networks, you are effectively sharing the open web versions so they can be viewed by everyone—even users who don’t have the CMOA app.
We’ve also leveraged the potential of mobile through integrations with popular messaging (Email, Messages, Facebook, Twitter), navigation (Apple Maps, Google Maps) and web browsing (Safari, Chrome) apps.
Future Growth & Development
This is version 1.0 of the CMOA companion app, and as I mentioned before, it’s just the beginning. We’re approaching this project as an organic, fluid and agile process. The app will remain in active development as we work to include the museum’s permanent collection and future exhibitions. We also plan to make it available to Android users in short order and rapidly introduce new and interesting functionality as opportunities arise.
Delivering this project was a true team effort. Without the hard work of the following people, this project would never have seen the light of day: Dimitry Bentsionov of Two Tap Labs; Katie Reilly, Ian Finch and the museum’s publications department; Marilyn Russell, Lucy Stewart and the CMOA education department; John Surloff and John Ericksen in IT; and our wonderful beta testers who helped uncover bugs and provide feedback during the development process.
What would you love to see in a museum mobile application? Please use the comment thread below to let us know your thoughts. Maybe you’ll see your concept in an upcoming version update!
*Hat tip to Jeff Lovett, CMOA’s construction and facilities coordinator. The bookmarking feature was all his idea.