The development of iTouch devices is changing the way art museums provide interactive tools to educate the public. The audioguides that started out as cassette tape players, then morphed into to hand-held phones with text and music are morphing again. This time the offer is an app designed to enhance a special exhibition.
To see what I mean, check out the Metropolitan Museum app for Guitar Heroes: http://blog.metmuseum.org/guitarheroes/app/
You can download the app from home and bring your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch. Or you can rent it at the museum. It is a multimedia personal tour guide for the exhibition. The contents are also online, so anyone with an Internet connection can take in the photos, video performances and music samples played on specific guitars featured. The app, however, lets you bring it along, hearing for yourself the different tonal qualities of each instrument you see.
Even if future apps are sold, on iTunes for example, as well as rented at the museum, they are a still a significant improvement over the audioguides. Not only do the apps add photos and video, but an opportunity for replaying and sharing with others, which multiplies their value and educational benefit. I am always amazed at the high quality of what the Metropolitan puts out, and while I miss the voice of Philippe de Montebello, the legendary curator, who recently retired after introducing the audioguide texts for decades, I like the direction of this new digital device.
Kudos to the Met and to other public museums who do so much to keep us engaged and informed.