Mind the Gap– Bringing Together Function and Content in the Cleveland Museum of Art’s ARTLENS Application

Jennifer Foley, United States , Niki Krause, USA

In January 2013 the Cleveland Museum of Art will launch ARTLENS, an iPad application for its permanent collection. The launch will occur in tandem with the opening of Gallery One, a new interactive space that connects visitors dynamically to artworks and the creative process through innovative technology, creative activities, and engaging programming.  Gallery One is a space for intergenerational learning that includes high-tech and high-touch interactives designed to aid the development of visual and verbal literacy in our youngest patrons, as well as an exhibition space and an interactive Collections Wall for visitors of all ages. This forty foot digital interactive interface will allow visitors to explore the museum’s collection in a visually inviting, engaging manner.  Visitors can sort the collection visually based on their interests, and seamlessly support and interact with the iPads to facilitate the dynamic movement of visitors between Gallery One and the museum’s galleries.

Visitors will begin their ARTLENS experience with the Gallery One Collections Wall and will be able to access extensive rich media material on more than 130 works of art in the collection while in the museum’s galleries and offsite. The application utilizes image recognition and location-based software to allow visitors to access live-action video, narrated slideshows, and detail and comparative images for selected objects that are in close physical proximity, as well as prompt additional interpretative content about an artwork through a visual scan of the object. In addition, visitors are able to use ARTLENS to engage with the collection through a selection of curated tours, and are able to build their own tours by assembling a playlist of favorite objects. The ARTLENS functionality is supported by integrating the museum’s collections management system, Piction digital asset management, and enhanced wireless tracking technology.

Museum digital projects inherently involve the marriage of function and content—and often a variety of departments within the institution and sometimes organizations outside the museum. This paper is a case study of the ARTLENS application, and the process that the Cleveland Museum of Art has implemented to complete the project. The presenters will discuss the project from two sides of the process– functionality and content–and explore the ways in which the two sides contributed to, compromised, and competed in order to mesh the various needs of everyone involved in order to create a seamless experience for the visitor.