Making Museum Apps Truly Interactive

I wanted to choose a mobile application not discussed in one of our readings this week for my Fabulous Public History Project Introduction. The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City has one of the best – a comprehensive application for its collections that can guide visitors through the museum and answer any questions they might have. The MoMA’s application includes several audio tour options which can be searched, not just taken as a whole. In addition, the app features the museum’s collection digitized for browsing the museum through your device, or learning more about the artifacts you see when visiting. This particular application sets itself apart from other similar applications by offering users additional information they might need when touring. It features a database of art terminology, as well as a calendar featuring all exhibit and event showtimes and screenings.

The project was created by the MoMA and released to iTunes as a free app on August 12, 2010. The project’s purpose seems to be the enhancement of the museum experience at the MoMA and to attract tourism. One of the application’s features is titled “MoMA Tracks.” MoMA Tracks provides guests with music options to accompany them when at the museum. This particular feature makes the intended audience of younger people and the tech savvy somewhat clear.

The learning objectives of this project go hand in hand with those of the museum. The Museum of Modern Art focuses on expanding artistic limits and showcasing newer aspects of art history, through historic figures such as Pablo Picasso. The MoMA places an emphasis on multimedia through its features on film history. They currently host an exhibit on German cinema between 1919 and 1933. The objectives of the application follow the museum’s lead by adding more substance and additional layers of information to their exhibits. The goal of the project is to provide guests with a personal aid or tour guide as they visit the museum.

While the application could certainly serve as a model for other museums to use when developing their own mobile applications, there is room for improvement within the MoMA app. The tours included are not the big draw for the application (that would be the index of works) as they are somewhat basic audio tours. I feel more aspects of the augmented reality applications we have seen could be added to make the experience more comprehensive. The project could definitely grow, but it does provide a good foundation for other museums to use. Despite the heavily interactive nature of the project (guests can choose a tour and music, etc.) audience participation does not truly factor into the design of the project itself, other than through user comments and reviews on iTunes.

This type of project would be ideal for multiple Idaho locations. Tourism in any place could benefit from mobile applications. An obvious idea would be to develop an application for the Idaho Historical Museum, the Old Idaho Penitentiary, or other area museums. Devices of this nature could be used for most historical points of interest in Idaho. Audio and photo tours for mobile devices, or augmented reality applications are viable options for the future of public history in Idaho.


The app on iTunes:

Official website for the MoMA:

“9 Free Mobile Apps for Exploring New York City”

One thought on “Making Museum Apps Truly Interactive”

  1. This would be a great idea to expand or “modernize” existing museums/exhibits instead of revamping everything, which smaller museums don’t always have the resources to do on a regular basis. It would also be a way to conserve physical space in a museum where additional displays, information panels, etc. need to be added to an exhibit that just doesn’t have the room.

    (Sarah and Tabatha: see if you can talk the Idaho State Historical Museum into squeezing the development of a mobile app into the budget while they are redoing the basement exhibits anyway…)

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