Recently, I have been reading the Dispatches from the Future of Museums (thank you, Professor Pomeroy for taking us to AAM so I could learn about this wonderful resource), and I just came across a very interesting article. Before you say anything, yes, I 100% stole the title from the source article for this post. Why fix it if it ain’t broke? But seriously, this article on mobile apps for museums really caught my eye.
Basically, Wikipedia has created an application for mobile phones that allows a museum visitor to scan a barcode located on a wall label or text and find out tons of information about an artist or a painting. First let me say: this is really cool. I don’t understand how technology works so when all of a sudden I can click a button and 1. order a pizza 2. text a friend and 3. learn about the complex identity politics associated with Catalonia as revealed through Joan Miró’s representation of its landscape and traditions all at the same time (a traveling show of Miró’s work is one of the first exhibitions to use this technology) – I’m a bit floored. For me, the history nerd who looks up historical and artistic facts in and out of museums on a daily basis, this is like Christmas come early. I love knowing every detail that I can about an object before I sit back and just look at it, and an application like this will provide me with the information that I so seriously crave.
The article also highlights the fact that QRpedia, as the creators are calling it, will allow museum professionals to provide information about any object in almost any language. For larger museums that draw international crowds, I think that something like QRpedia could prove to be indispensable. Most museums only provide information in one written language, and maybe a handful with their audio tours. This new application could help a museum reach entirely new populations simply by making exhibitions more language accessible.
However, I also understand that there could be some drawbacks. Distraction from the object and more focus on the technology is what immediately comes to mind, and keeping people glued to their phones while they walk through a museum is not exactly an inspiring sight.
For the most part, though, I am excited about the prospect of technology like this. I think it could be an important interpretive tool if used correctly – I guess the issue is how to do that.
But also, I am writing a term paper for another class on this EXACT topic, so finding this article was like killing two birds with one stone. Now if only there were an app for that….