Using mobile technology we now have the opportunity to take artworks from the Tate collection out into the real world. Over the last year we have been developing three apps that address this in different ways – Art Maps, Pocket Art Gallery and a William Blake walking tour app.
Art Maps is a mobile application and research collaboration between Tate and Horizon research centre at the Universities of Nottingham and Exeter. The project is developing and examining the use of a mobile app allowing users to relate artworks to place. Users can geo-locate artworks from Tate’s online collection on a map and move, tag, comment on or annotate these, providing crowd-sourced data. They can also use the audio-visual documentation features of their smartphones to record their own responses to being in the places inspired by or depicted in the artworks. In effect they are both mapping the artworks and orientating themselves through the art, on location. We will describe the project from the perspective of the museum and from that of the users, drawing on the participant interviews from two public engagement workshops in spring and autumn 2012. We will describe how these have informed both the iterative design process as well as our emerging understanding of how and why people might want to engage with the collection in this way.
Pocket Art Gallery is an augmented reality app that uses marker technology to enable people to hang artworks from the collection wherever they are in the world. The app was developed as part of the Great British Art Debate partnership project and includes artworks from Tate, as well as three other British museums. Users can select up to four artworks from a selection of one hundred paintings and can position them in their own environment, using a marker of their choice. The available markers are commonly found objects such as bank notes, road signs and logos. A user can choose to ‘hang’ a famous painting in their living room through their smartphone and then take a photograph of it to share via social media or the Pocket Art Gallery map. We will describe the thinking behind the project and the challenges of using cutting-edge technology. Various choices and compromises had to made around technology platform, software licensing, choice of markers, and user experience that will give other museums plenty to consider if they’re thinking about using augmented reality in this way.
We are also in the process of developing a William Blake walking tour app that guides users on a walk around London, visiting locations relevant to the life of William Blake. Using geo-location services, the app will deliver rich content such as images, video or audio to the user’s phone when they reach one of the locations on the tour.
Our paper will explore the challenges and pitfalls as well as the successes of these projects and share the knowledge we have gained about engaging different audiences outside the gallery walls.


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