With the recent introduction (for many countries) of Apple’s iPhone, many museums and galleries have been looking at ways they can use the web browser and multimedia player capabilities of the device to enhance the content they deliver.
The Tate Liverpool have made a podcast of their Gustav Klimt exhibition available. It can be watched from anywhere, but is designed to play on an iPhone or iPod touch at the exhibition. The podcast weighs in at nearly 200Mb so they provide a wi-fi network at the gallery where a user can download it once they arrive or a user can hire an iPod touch. Given that they have tailored the podcast for these devices and they have a wi-fi network in place, I wonder why they chose to present the content to mimick a traditional audio tour where you walk up to an object and press the corresponding number on the device – rather than as a web based tour that could use a totally different interface to interact with the artwork?
However, the podcast itself has been done very well. It begins with a short introduction, showing a user how to use the device. For each item, a brief image appears and then the screen goes blank while the narration occurs to allow the visitor to focus on the actual work of art, rather than the video screen. Towards the end of each items file, videos, stills or interviews are presented as secondary content to enhance what the user has already learnt.
The tour appears to be working for the gallery. Will Gompertz, director of Tate Media, stated that the average visit time increased from 45 minutes to 3 hours since the tour was introduced.
Being in Australia, it’s a bit hard for me to visit the exhibition and experience it fully. Although the tour appears to be working for the gallery, it still feels as though there is a bit of a missed opportunity in that it hasn’t exploited the unique interface of the device in the ways it is capable of being used.