Since its founding in 1901, the Toledo Museum of Art’s mission has been art education and it has earned a global reputation for the quality of their collection, their innovative and extensive education programs, and their architecturally significant campus. More than 30,000 works of art represent American and European painting, the history of art in glass, ancient Greek, Roman, and Egyptian works, Asian and African art, medieval art, sculpture, decorative arts, graphic arts, and modern and contemporary art. The app provides content that caters to a variety of audiences and allows visitors to explore the galleries in alternative ways.
Q. How does the app enhance the visitor experience?
A. TMApp integrates technology into the gallery experience and provides a sensory learning opportunity for visitors to look, listen and learn; we know that people learn in different ways. Additionally, TMApp creates an opportunity for new audiences to access and connect with our collection and for current audiences to see it in new ways. TMApp allows us to communicate with our visitors and also help them to navigate the space.
Q. The app features a very unique approach to an audio tour, with original poems inspired by the TMA collection penned and read by revered Irish poet Paul Durcan. Was it always the intention to use his work in the app when he began his residency at the museum?
A. It was a great honor to have Irish poet Paul Durcan write a book of poetry inspired by works in the TMA collection. While working on the project, we knew we wanted to incorporate his poetry in the galleries. The timing of his public poetry readings and the beginning of our relationship with OnCell was happenstance. This audio tour inspired another poetry-related audio tour that’s currently in the works.
Q. Another unique feature of the app is a “wild animal hunt” for a creature who has found its way out of an artwork and prompts families to follow clues around the museum. What inspired you to create this experience in the app?
A. Because the Toledo Museum of Art has a long history of immersing children in the world of art, we believe that it’s never too early to start the learning and engagement process. The goal of the Escape! scavenger hunt on TMApp was to have a fun and playful way for families to explore the galleries and to look closely at works of art.
Q. How has the app been received by visitors and colleagues?
A. We’ve received a number of positive reviews including a young visitor who was so excited about the scavenger hunt that he wanted to come back the next day to explore again!
Q. How do you plan to leverage the app builder to share new content?
A. We’ve used the builder to ensure the app is updated and reflects rotating exhibitions. For example, visitors were able to dive deeper into our special exhibition Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic with a mobile guide that includes artist interviews, with video and audio interviews with the artist; images of the Old Master works of art that were the sources for poses, titles, and other details; audio commentary; and other contextual information. We have also used the guide to include information about TMA collection connections, a soundtrack (on Spotify) inspired by the exhibition and created by the TMA Teen Apprentices, and a selection of audio descriptions for visitors with vision impairments. Visitors can look forward to new guides coming this spring that will include accessibility features including extended audio descriptions.
Q. What advice would you give to other organizations who are looking to create an app?
A. You don’t have to do it alone. This project is a collaborative effort across multiple departments including Information Systems, Marketing and Education & Engagement which has been important in the development phase. Additionally, frontline staff has been leveraged to promote the TMApp experience.
The TMapp app features original audio and poetry, gallery tour, an interactive scavenger hunt, and essential visitor info such as admission and floorplans. The app will soon be paired with location-aware beacons to help visitors discover content. It is available for download on iOS in the App Store and Android in Google Play. Access the web app on any web-enabled device at TMAapp.oncell.com.