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Museum guide app is powered by humans

Work & Lifestyle

ASK Brooklyn Museum is a free app that enables visitors to ask questions about exhibits and receive real-time answers from art historians and educators.

The best museums are so full of information that they inevitably spark a question or two in visitors. Previously, museum tour guides have been the main resource for finding out more information about an artwork — either that, or some frantic googling. But speaking up in a group of strangers can be very intimidating and following a museum guide means moving at their pace. Now, a New York museum has given the tour guide an interactive upgrade, via its ASK Brooklyn Museum app. The free app enables curious attendees to ask questions and start conversations about the exhibits through their smartphone and receive real-time answers from the institution’s team of art historians and educators.

To begin, visitors download the app and launch the simple messaging platform. Then, as they explore the museum, anytime they have a query, they simply type it into the dialogue box. The message is sent to the museum’s audience engagement team, who provide answers and feedback in real-time. They can also send a photograph of an interesting piece to prompt the feedback team to give them more information. The app is location-aware, which helps the responder work out where the visitor is in the exhibition and avoid any confusion about what they are looking at. After responding to the specific question, the team member will also recommend other objects of interest.

Lots of museums — including the Smithsonian Design Museum and Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam — have been harnessing technology to improve visitor engagement, but what is nice about the ASK Brooklyn Museum app is the balance it strikes by combining the ease and anonymity of the smartphone with the real feedback of experts. Could similar apps work in other institutions?



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