MUSING: A Mobile Media Application for Museum Exhibitions
After observing visitors taking photos of the wall labels with their phone, it occurred to the former Director of the University Galleries, Mary Mikel Stump, that with the abundance of mobile devices in use today, wouldn’t it be nice to view all the same information found on gallery wall labels on a smartphone? That's how MUSING, a mobile media application for museums, was born.
The premise is simple: A visitor walks into the museum, points their smart-phone camera at a work of art, and snaps a photo. MUSING then recognizes the painting and a variety of information is visually overlaid on top of the image on the visitor's phone.
Instead of static text-based wall labels, the viewer is provided links to artist's interviews or videos on specific techniques, Web sites about historical context and other points of interest. Each one of the Points of Interest [POI] is placed by the museum admin as the content is entered into the system in the exact spot that is to be highlighted. That allows the admin to contextually place the videos, factoids, historical information, and other didactic interpretation in the spot that best augments the viewer's comprehension.
MUSING also allows the viewer to select and 'favorite" artworks so they can store the information and refer to it at a later time. There are plans for social media sharing and the ability for the patrons to comment on the artworks in coming versions of the app..
MUSING is built as a client/server system. The client, runs on iPhone (Android coming soon) and is freely downloadable from Apple’s App Store. This allows any patron visiting a participating museum to download the app for free on their own device and also allows the participating museum to elect not to provide interpretive hardware and loaner devices. It also means that the iPhone client doesn’t need to be reprogrammed every time a new exhibition is created or content changes.
The server side is database driven and administered via the MUSING Admin Panel, which requires no programming knowledge from the user. This allows museum professionals to upload photos of the artwork, add the various points of interest, and link them to videos, audio, Web sites, and a variety of other types of information.
MUSING'‘s first exhibit was Eric Zimmerman: West of the Hudson, which ran for 38 days at the University Galleries at Texas State University. During that time, 25% of visitors downloaded and tried MUSING to interact with Zimmerman’s artwork. 89.8% of our visitors thought that they understood the artwork better and 93.8% said they would want to see MUSING in a future exhibition.
The MUSING team consists of Mary Mikel Stump, former Director of the University Galleries; Dr. Dan Tamir, Computer Science faculty at Texas State University; Kevin Whiteside and Gentry Atkinson, computer programmers; and Grayson Lawrence, School of Art & Design faculty at Texas State University.
Musing has been used at The University Galleries and the Wittliff Collections at Texas State University, Blue Star Contemporary in San Antonio, and the Sid Richardson Museum in Fort Worth.