Thursday, 23 March 2017




For my final Musings post, I decided to look at museum mobile apps. Numerous museums have them, which was making it difficult to choose one.

Until I read, “first of its kind for any museum”. . . Canadian Museum for Human Rights, you have caught my attention.

No, check that one out! (source)

According to their website, the app, designed by Acoustiguide, “contains a fully accessible self-guided tour (using audio, images, text and video), interactive map, mood meter, online ticketing, information to help plan your visit, and more”.

Step 1: Download the app, Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

Step 2: Explore.

This is a little difficult as I was not at the museum. However, if I was planning a visit, it would be useful as it provides the layout of the museum and what can be found in each gallery. The app was designed to be as accessible as possible and it shows with two written and spoken languages and an ASL option.

The “near me’ option presents the user with information when they are near 120 exhibition elements. Even the map/floorplan are used to present addition information through clickable images (see image below).
Screenshot of the floorplan 

While this app is certainly unique and well-rounded it does raise one concern, as all these apps do: does relying on your phone during a museum visit isolate you from others? Arguably, someone using this app will have headphones on or be reading the text, which could take away from the sense of community within the museum — something important for museums presenting difficult topics. Or worse, it could look like cellphones are taking over the museum; remember the Rembrandt ‘kids on phones’ photo.

Engagement mistaken for boredom. Photo: Gijsbert van der Wal via The Telegraph. 

On the other hand, as long as the user “gets something” out of their experience, does it really matter? After all, apps have numerous benefits including; a museum map they cannot misplace, describe the layout for the visually impaired, provide additional information about an event or artefact, and allow the user to indicate their mood after a gallery. 

Screenshot of the Mood Map available after each gallery

Not all museums can replicate what the CMHR has created. The number of resources required for this app cannot be underestimated and smaller institutions may not have a need for an app this inclusive.

So for my final Musings post, I want to leave you with some things to consider:

1. The role of technology in museums is growing, but remember, any app you create has to be based on the information and collection of your institution. If you do want to create an app, consider what will benefit your institution most: is it a larger, complex app like the CMHR or would a type of game or simple interactive work best?

2. Resources, resources, resources! Consider your resources and if you may qualify for any grants. These apps can be expensive, codes need to be written, designers may be needed, voice actors, translations, Bluetooth technology in your museum, Wi-Fi may need to be installed, etc.

3. Who is your target audience and are they likely to use the technology or support you in creating it?

New technology is wonderful and helpful. But sometimes you don’t need it.

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