Museums are going mobile /1

In a relatively short time the museums have entered the Internet, created websites, digitised the collections, and entered the social networks. Do we expect even more movements? some of you may be asking. Well the answer is clearly yes. As society changes so the museums also have to adapt if we want to keep and attract new users, either in person or online.

A visitor using the iPad in our exhibition rooms during explanations by Nina Simon. | Image of the iPhone app from the LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) | Presentation of the application about the works of Botticelli within Art, Internet and New Media in Florence. Photos: Conxa Rodà, 2010.

Museums are starting to use mobile devices to provide information for the visitors, to widen the experience of the visit with new visual and multimedia resources, to extend knowledge, to be used as a tool of interpretation, to foster interaction, to attend specific publics, to attract new users, and all in all, to diversify the ways of connecting with the museums. It is very interesting to consult this year’s study from January of Museums & Mobile Survey, that includes the evaluations of more than 700 professionals from museums about the aims, challenges and future of mobile interpretation.

The mobile has for some time stopped being a reference just as a telephone, as was well explained by Heidi Cohen a year ago in her blog, Mobile Isn’t Just the Cell Phone Anymore. Users are increasingly using the multiple mobile devices for information, entertainment, reading, learning, communicating through social networks, and shopping. New uses are appearing, new devices, and new terms such as m-commerce, m-publishing. These and many other concepts were talked about at the recent Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

As well as being able to see some of the latest technological items and toys, -such as the Samsung Galaxy tablet that aims to compete with the iPad (something difficult, now with the iPad2) or the HTC smartphone that includes a “contextual” Facebook button for instantly sharing whatever we want without having to open the application – so what lessons can be learned from the talks and seminars of #mwc that can be useful for museums? What should we bear in mind for satisfying the needs/demands of our users? Some thoughts:

  • apps are changing the way people interact with contents
  • digital and mobile should help to get more out of what you can get in paper format, they should add value
  • get the most out of multimedia, that enriches both the contents offered and the experience of the user
  • don’t only use for spreading contents, but also for engaging the audience
  • offer content in all supports: freedom of choice. The future is multi-platform (multiple devices)
  • foster sharing
  • offer attractive formats, at reasonable prices

The applications for mobile devices (apps) should add value: in the same way as a website cannot just be a brochure transferred to the screen, the mobile applications should be more than the adaption of web contents to the small-screen format. They should be designed for these platforms and contribute with added value. As happens in the physical museum or in our virtual settings, it is necessary to focus on the diversity of the public, given that the different publics use the apps in different ways. It’s a real challenge. It’s a new world to explore, of which there begin to exist many good examples in museums around the world. Museums such as the Louvre, British, Tate, Van Gogh, Brooklyn, MoMA or the Prado have applications about the centre or about temporary exhibitions, that we will comment on in another article of this series starting today.

And about Picasso? We can mention two. The Kunsthaus of Zurich has launched the cultY Picasso application on the occasion of the exhibition to commemorate the one held there in 1932 which Picasso himself curated. You can read a detailed review on 10 iPhone Apps for Current Exhibitions / 2 (section 8). And we are happy to say that the Museu Picasso has just set in motion the first mobile application for iPhone and iPad. It is dedicated to the highlights of the collection and can be downloaded free of charge.

It is a first step. In fact, it’s the adaptation of the 39 highlights of our website. Although I reassert by stating that the optimum is to develop specific applications for mobile platforms more than just making adaptation of pre-existing content, this has however, both in terms of economic and human resources, been a pragmatic decision. Starting in this way allows us to experiment with this new platform, making the treasures of the collection available to new audiences in a relatively simple and quick way. Future applications that we prepare will go further. For those who think it is just a question of being “up-to-date with the latest”, we should say that yes, the aim of innovating moves us – something very Picasso;) -, but more than anything, what pushes us, as on the social networks, is to be where the public is, and to spread the contents and interaction to new fields.

In successive posts we will present the conclusions of the above-mentioned survey, Museums & Mobile Survey, and of The Rise of Apps Culture and we will analyse apps of museums of the world.

Conxa Rodà
Project Manager

And you? Have you used any museums apps? What do you think of them? What would you like them to offer?

  • Marcela Cougo
    March 15, 2011

    Enhorabuena Conxa y equipo.
    Habia visto que en “Presentació de la programació del Museu Picasso 2010/2011. Dossier de premsa” que estaba previsto para 2n semestre de 2011 el desarrollo de aplicativos por dispositivos móviles (iPhone, iPad). Que bien que ya estáis! Espero leer otros articulos sobre “Los museos se movilizan” y
    saber si la expeciencia ha portado valor al Museu.

    Saludos, Marcela Cougo

  • Museu Picasso
    March 15, 2011

    Muchas gracias Marcela por tus comentarios de parte del equipo del museo. En breve publicaremos más posts relacionados con la “movilización de los museos” Saludos!

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