Skip to main content

Transforming the Museum Experience through Mobile Technology

By Anita Contini, Bloomberg Philanthropies Arts Team

Visiting a museum and seeing incredible art in person can be a transformative experience. But museum-goers have traditionally faced two barriers to making the most of their museum visits: the challenges of navigating collections and accessing information about its works.

Many museums have made significant efforts to address these challenges, including offering curator-led tours and traditional audio guides along with interactive kiosks that facilitate self-guided walkthroughs. But in a museum that houses more than 1,500 works, as New York’s Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum does, these options don’t always provide for maximum engagement.

It’s difficult to tailor a group tour to the varying interests of up to 20 visitors, and those who prefer exploring the museum on their own might easily feel lost. Incorporating innovative mobile technologies into existing museum efforts to improve the visitor experience can help further the connections visitors make when they engage with an exhibition—and help them see even more of a museum’s collection.

To help museums with this opportunity, the Bloomberg Arts Engagement Initiative will provide $15 million in grants that will fund participating institutions’ plans to build mobile applications. Over the next three years, the Guggenheim Museum, Art Institute of Chicago, New York Botanical Garden, Museum of Modern Art, and Metropolitan Museum of Art will launch their own mobile app designed to make exhibition information and museum floor plans even more accessible to visitors. These grants are part of a larger initiative, which has provided $57 million to increase engagement with arts institutions since 1999.

In addition to the institutions I just mentioned, we support American Museum of Natural History, The Jewish Museum, Mori Art Museum, and Tate Modern Museum.

Today, the Guggenheim Museum launched their Bloomberg Philanthropies funded mobile app, in time for the opening of the James Turrell exhibition on June 21st. The Guggenheim Museum’s new mobile app improves a visitor’s experience before he or she even steps inside the Fifth Avenue building. Users will also be able to access background information on the collection’s artists provided by the museum’s curators. Visitors will even be able to learn about the architecture of the museum itself. As the free app’s interactive floor map uses GPS to guide visitors through the museum’s halls, videos and audio clips supported by 3D imaging complement the art.

In addition to allowing visitors to customize their tours, the app extends the museum experience beyond the Guggenheim’s iconic rotunda; app users can freely access content from any location. As Mike Bloomberg has said, “Improving access doesn’t stop once people get in the door.” That’s why Bloomberg Philanthropies is funding the Engagement Initiative as part of our larger Arts program which aims to improve access of all kinds to the arts.

We look forward to continuing these efforts as we help the Art Institute of Chicago, New York Botanical Garden, Museum of Modern Art and Metropolitan Museum of Art enhance visitor experiences through mobile applications.