Using Your Cellphone at the Museum

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Don’t forget your phone the next time you visit the museum. Seriously. Only a few years ago, it would have been considered “bad manners” to be using your cellphone in a museum setting. However, in recent years, museums seem to have found ways to embrace the technology phones provide. I have seen more museums and exhibits encouraging their patron’s use of phones. In fact, some are tapping into the social media marketing visitors can do for them – for free. Win-win. (I wrote about one such exhibit last year. HERE is the blog post.)

I recently read THIS article about museums using cellphones for audio tours rather than those expensive handheld devices you have to rent and return. I kind of like this idea. For the most part, it is a convenient, free tool for the visitor, and it saves the museums money. Again, win-win.

But, the uses do not end there. Some museums are creating apps. (HERE is an article) For example, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) has an app and has partnered with another company (Museum Hack) to develop some audio tours (Read about it HERE – it sounds really fun and innovative). Other museums are embracing the technology and developing apps that can include interactive maps, tours, language translations of wall labels, as well as detailed information. I see the benefits and the downside on some of these apps. As with all things, the golden rule (respecting copyright) and moderation are key. If this allows people to see, learn, and experience art. Great.  However, it gives me pause to think some might use the apps as a replacement when the original is right in front of you. There is nothing like experiencing a great work of art in person – not relying solely on the app, but IN PERSON. Not being truly present would be like visiting the Grand Canyon while viewing pictures of the Grand Canyon on your cell phone. At the end of the day, it is about seeing, experiencing, and learning. It’s about being present.

What are your thoughts? Would you use a museum app, QR code, and/or audio tour on your phone?

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