Midwesterners: fear not. The Brooklyn Museum isn’t the only one working to improve the audience experience with an app.
In June 2016, Minneapolis Institute of Art (Mia) launched Overheard, an app that allows visitors to explore stories in their own way, at their own pace. The app uses geolocation to recognize where you are in the museum and allow you to 'overhear' nearby characters through your headphones as if they are right there with you. You can listen in on a first date, go on a ghost hunt with children, or catch up with a couple of old friends. (Source)
But that’s not all Mia is up to these days.
They’re also rethinking the whole visitor experience, and abandoning some of those antiquated notions about labels, seating, and museum education.
These changes include a major project to re-write traditional didactic labels (all 5,000 of them!) with stories to provide a human connection with the artist, to show a little bit more about why the artist picked that subject, and why they created the piece that way.
Forest and the trees…
But the individual labels were only the beginning. New gallery labels that explain, in clear language, why objects are gathered in the same gallery are also improving the visitor experience–in fact, they’re doubling the amount of time people spend in the galleries.
New furniture is helping too. Instead of expecting visitors to walk quietly from one gallery to the next, Mia is embracing the reality that people are there to see great works, but also to socialize and connect with friends and family. So they’ve improved seating areas with comfy sofas, chairs, and tables, and set out iPads loaded with stories about the artworks on view in the immediate vicinity.
The biggest takeaway? Audience research is indicating that visitors remember what they’ve learned weeks later. Another big win.