Lonely Planet Writer

Brooklyn museum creates app for a more personalised tour around exhibits

A New York museum is offering visitors their very own personal historian, researcher or teacher to help guide them around their exhibits.

Brooklyn Museum, New York.
Brooklyn Museum, New York. Image by Kent Wang / CC BY-SA 2.0

Brooklyn Museum has launched a new Android app that lets visitors interact directly and in real-time with their expert staff at the swipe of a touchscreen. Visitors simply download the app to their phone and then as they walk around the artworks and installations, they can ask specific questions about what exactly it is they are looking at. The experts – a team of historians, researchers and educators – will give immediate answers and also offer advice on other objects that might be of interest to look out for next.

The museum is hoping the experience will not only help customers, but also tell them more about what people are actually looking at when they come to visit. “We have the opportunity to really learn what works of art interest our visitors, what kinds of questions they are asking, and the observations they are making,” the Museum’s directors said. The app is now free to download on Android, and had already been made available for iPhones following a year of pilot testing. The Brooklyn museum is the third largest in New York City and has an eclectic collection with an incredible 1.5 million works. As with any museum with such an enormous collection, choosing what to actually put on display is not always that simple – and feedback from the new app will be used to help those decisions.

Among the works usually on display at the museum are paintings by Mark Rothko, Edward Hopper, Winslow Homer and Georgia O’Keeffe. The Brooklyn Museum is also home to particularly notable collections of antiquities from Egypt, Japan, and across Africa and Oceania. The new app is being funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, which is running a programme to help cultural institutions find new ways of reaching people through digital technology. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg (who is also behind the philanthropic project) said: “New technology gives museums the ability to connect with audiences in exciting new ways … [this] app will be a great way to help visitors immerse themselves in the Museum’s world class collections.”

(Press Association)