MoMA’s Got a Brand New App

Today MoMA announced the release of its new app for Apple’s iPhone, and iPod Touch, now available on the App Store. It’s a free download that provides views of 32,000 works from the Museum’s collection, plus lots of very useful extras, including a dictionary of art terms, a database of artist bios, a calendar of exhibitions, film screenings, and events, and a variety of audio tours for youngsters, as well as for the visually impaired.

There are some not so useful, but potentially fun, extras as well.

MoMA Tracks allows you to select tracks from your own library to listen to while you wander the Museum. The fact that MoMA leaves the sound track completely up to you begs the question why you couldn’t simply do this without the app. What does my own love of the Black Keys have to do with Marcel DuChamp? Why not guide me a little? Why not give me a MoMA’s DJ picks for Impressionists, or German Expressionism?

And that seems to be the problem in general with this first attempt to interactively engage MoMA visitors: there seems to be very little imagination put into the interactivity part of the deal. It’s more DIY with no real engagement.

MoMA Snaps allows you to take a picture in the museum and send it as a museum postcard. I thought this meant it would allow you to take a picture and add MoMA info and graphics to it somehow to make it more informative. Instead this function adds only the MoMA brand banner to the side of the photo.

I’ve seen technology that would certainly beef up MoMA snaps: Stickybits, for instance, uses scanned bar codes that allow users to attach video, photos, and other digital information to birthday cards, mailable objects, and any other scannable item: even walls and lamp posts.

When I mentioned this sort of function to MoMA’s communcations department, they were very willing to pass the suggestion along. So maybe we’ll see this, and other additions to interactivity as the app develops.

Allegra Burnette, MoMA’s Creative Director of Digital Media, tells me, “We’re putting an upgrade plan into place now, with the intention of prioritizing any technical issues that may not have come up in testing first, followed by the implementation of new features as we get more feedback about how people are using the app.”

The app was designed and developed in-house by the Digital Media department, in collaboration with Sastry Appajosyula of Rendermonkey using Twitter feedback and testing with MoMA members during development.

“Our plan, “says Burnette, ” is to build on that approach and look at user feedback in general when planning future features and additions to the app.”


ADDENDUM: Friday, September 17

Regarding Toura, just found this bit on (which, admittedly, I should have spotted a long time ago): | June 9, 2010
“Toura, a multi-platform mobile tour guide content management system…Museums just insert their content into Toura’s cloud-based template system, hit publish, and voila! Apps for Everybody! Toura’s model is to give away their easy-to-use development tools for free, and then split the app revenue with the museums and other tourist and travel site operators later.”




The Art App Boom by Spencer Bailey

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