The Brooklyn Museum will launch a three-year program enabling visitors to utilize their mobile devices to interact in real time with Museum experts. The initiative is designed to greatly enhance the visitor experience and allow the Museum to spot trends in visitor interest throughout its collections as part of the Bloomberg Connects program that increases access to cultural institutions through technology. This marks the first phase in an initiative funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies that will enable the Museum to better serve all visitors.

Testing of the mobile app will begin in the fall of 2014, with public engagement in the spring of 2015. In subsequent years, the initiative will integrate the mobile experience with wayfinding throughout the building using digital signage, the creation of conversational spaces, and re-thinking visitors’ entry experience to the Museum.

In the initial phase, visitors will use their mobile devices to ask questions as they explore the Museum’s collections. Location-aware technology will be used throughout the building to pinpoint a visitor’s location in relation to works of art on view, which will enable experts to better answer questions and recommend other objects of interest in close proximity.

“Through this initiative the Brooklyn Museum will set a new standard in visitor engagement by creating a dynamic and responsive Museum that fosters dialogue and sparks conversation between Museum staff and all of our visitors,” comments Arnold L. Lehman, Shelby White and Leon Levy Director of the Museum. “We are grateful to Bloomberg Philanthropies for their leadership support of digital technology in museums and for their recognition of the potential of the Brooklyn Museum’s visitor experience initiative.”

The project is being led by Shelley Bernstein, Vice Director of Digital Engagement and Technology, and Sara Devine, Manager of Interpretive Materials and Audience Engagement, both of whom will post updates on the progress of the project on the Museum’s technology blog. The initiative builds upon the Museum’s history as a leader in the use of innovative technology projects as a means of partnering with its community, both through its pioneering use of social media and the creation of crowd-sourced exhibitions and programs. Past projects-Click! A Crowd-Curated Exhibition;Split Second: Indian Paintings; and GO: a community-curated open studio project-invited public participation in the exhibition process.

“The new project builds on those earlier efforts in crowd-sourcing, this time with a Museum-wide focus. Through this initiative, trends in visitor interest will trigger a re-examination of existing information provided in our galleries so that we may make changes accordingly to better serve all visitors, including those who never use a mobile device during their visit,” comments Bernstein.

The design and concept of the current project follows a series of pilot projects designed to determine what visitors are seeking as part of their experience. Pilots provided visitors with access to curators, other experts, and staff to discover how conversation might be facilitated throughout the galleries using community-driven technology solutions.

Bloomberg is a long-standing supporter of the Brooklyn Museum. Past support includes exhibitions of work by Walton Ford, Yinka Shonibare, and Fred Tomaselli; an architectural installation by the design firm Situ Studio; and Raw/Cooked, a two-year-long series of solo exhibitions by under-the-radar Brooklyn artists.

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