Almost all museums offer audio guides as a way to provide visitors with stories and background information on the objects they’re looking at. When the NCMA opened West Building in 2010, we also created two audio tours: a cell phone tour and a soundtrack tour.
From the Curator's Choice self-guided tour: Pseudo-Jacopino di Francesco, The Beheading of St. Catherine of Alexandria, circa 1325–30, tempera and gold leaf on panel, 24 3/8 x 26 5/8 in., Gift of the Samuel H. Kress Foundation
From Curator's Choice: Mexican, Veracruz state, Standing Female Deity or Deity Impersonator, circa 600–900, ceramic with white and black paint, 57 1/4 x 22 3/8 in., Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Gordon Hanes
From Lunch Break: Pieter Aertsen, A Meat Stall with the Holy Family Giving Alms, 1551, oil on panel, 45 1/2 x 66 1/2 in., Purchased with funds from Wendell and Linda Murphy and various donors, by exchange
From Date Night: William Adolphe Bouguereau, Girl Defending Herself against Love, 1880, oil on canvas, 66 3/4 x 44 7/8 in., The University of North Carolina at Wilmington
The cell phone tour provided over 80 stops throughout the galleries with audio from curators, experts, and educators. The soundtrack tour offered a mostly abstract audio experience providing music, narration, and ambient sounds to accompany works of art.
Seven years later, a lot has changed in the world of cell phone tours. Imagine—2010 was just three years after the first iPhone came out. Two years later, the first Android phone was released. Now, according to a visitor survey, as many as 90 percent of NCMA visitors have iPhones. We want to respond to the changing ways our visitors engage with ideas and stories.
One way we’re doing this is to launch a new mobile app to replace the cell phone tour. You can still get the same great content, but now on a bilingual (English and Spanish) mobile app that showcases works of art through three thematic, self-guided tours that we call “Lunch Break,” “Curator’s Choice,” and “Date Night.” New wall labels are being installed to denote app stops. Each tour takes less than 30 minutes.
Update: As of September 2017, the NCMA no longer has a downloadable app but a mobile tour that can be accessed through ncartmuseum.org/mobile. It has the same content as the app, but now in a new form. It’s also available in Spanish when you change the language in your phone’s settings and refresh the browser.
We're excited about this opportunity to provide new ways for visitors to explore the Museum, but we won’t wait another seven years before refreshing the technology. Our decisions will be guided by what visitors tell us. There’s a chance to rate the experience within the app, and in the fall, we will conduct a more in-depth evaluation to gauge if this is how visitors want to engage with works of art. If not, we’ll keep working on other ideas that help bring art to life.
Download the mobile tour (updated September 2017)