A Museum Aficionado looks at Phillips Collection App.

Last Sunday, in addition to the state of the art look at museum mobile development the Washington Post had a mini review of the Phillips Collection mobile applications called The Art of the Tour, phone vs. iPad.  I had looked at the Phillips Collection iPhone app earlier in an entry called Using The Phillips Collection iPhone app. At the time, I was a little disappointed.  I felt the iPhone App  was a repurposing of the website experience.  I wanted the app to be a completely different experience.

In the article, the authors Jessica Goldstein and Maura Judkis write that the Phillips is one of the first museums in the Washington area to produce mobile apps that encompass the entire organization not just a specific exhibit.  Kudos! Innovation is once again part of the Phillips legacy. You may remember they were the first museum of modern art to open in this country.

The authors structured the art of the tour with LIKES and DISLIKES.  What’s cool! What’s not!  The big DISLIKE to using an app in the galleries is that you would look like a dork focusing on a small screen in the galleries. – not cool! There also seemed to be an assumption that the mobile user would be new to the process of going to museums but also of looking at art.  When I worked at the Phillips in the late 80’s we used to have this saying. “The time the average visitor takes looking at a painting is about the same amount of time it takes to peel an orange.”

Were they thinking about the mobile user as our new  “the time is takes to peel an orange” visitor?

What about the consistent museum visitor who has looked at and appreciated painting and art for years?

There are some of us in Washington!

How do we approach the museum mobile application experience?

A recent experience with the iPad app at the Phillips Collection cafe provides an option. I was sitting with my non-techie 81 year old artist Mom. We were discussing the work of Lee Boroson who had an installation in the café. She lists the artist, Albert Pinkam Ryder as an influence in the show description.  We were trying to see the connection.

May be the color?

Wasn’t Ryder the painter that laid on heavy impasto and took years to finish a canvas?

How many Ryder paintings are in the Phillips Collection.

I pulled  my iPad out and opened the Phillips Application. (The Wi-Fi worked well in the café.) We found a Search function under Explore the Collection and typed in Ryder. A number of selections came up including Dead Bird, Fisherman’s Hut and my favorite Moonlit Cove.  There was even a portrait of Ryder done by a Kenneth Miller which I had never seen.  He had a long beard and a serious expression.

We saw the connection.

Ryder’s color was an influence.

Perhaps the texture influenced the artist as well.

Mobile can enhance an experience. In the museum space, it was fun to have it on-call as a reference. It was also useful to put it away once it was no longer needed.


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