The Frick Collection is recognized worldwide for its premiere collection of European art and sculpture. It was created by Henry Clay Frick and is located in his old place of residence where he housed the collection of works. I enjoyed the digital presence of the Frick and its ability to still maintain the tranquility of traditional exhibitionism and viewership.
What digital experiences does the museum offer?
App – Yes, the Frick does have a mobile app that can be used anywhere, including outside of the museum. The app offers an explorative map that can be used in the gallery spaces, a short list of tours that can guide visitors independently on a selective experience, a list of artworks and artists in the collection, a list of current events at the Frick, and basic visitor information. Though it seems a bit glitchy at times (the Art and Artists selection tends to stall – maybe because of the huge amount of information presented at once), the app seems like a great tool to independently guide a tech-savy visitor through the museum and to even prepare for their visit.
Audio Multimedia Tour – Yes, the Frick offers to its visitors a digital, random access audio guide called Acoustiguide Audio Tour that allows its users to listen to information regarding each piece based on its exhibition tag number. The guide is also offered in several language. While visiting, I head Spanish, French, and English. It also offers information in Japanese, Italian, and German. This was a very popular device in the galleries based solely on the audience the Frick attracts. Most visitors I had seen were above the age of 50, and I have witnessed in past observation experiences in institutions that audio guides tend to be most popular with older audiences. These audio guides are included in the price of admission.
AV in Gallery – No, because the Frick is located in the old home of Henry Clay Frick, the integrity of the house and its overall characteristic is maintained. There are no AV advancements to the galleries, assumably to not disrupt the traditional appearance of the museum space.
Interactive – Yes/No, the museum offers the audio guide, they call it the Acoustiguide audio tour, that allows visitors of several languages the ability to listen to information about each room and the pieces within them. This is interactive as the visitor will use the guide to enter in an item number seen with the works, and in exchange they will be able to listen to the museum’s provided information on the piece.
There is a room located within the Frick on the first floor called the Music Room that offers 12 minute “orientation” sessions about the Frick and its collection. The film is shown every 20 minutes and offers automatic connection to audiences with hearing aids. It also has a large amount of semi-private seating that might be attractive to some of its notably older audiences. Though not interactive as per the definition, it is still a uniquely informative tool on getting to know the museum. Though it is a bit strange that you have to go through several spaces to get to that room anyways.
However, on the website there are many opportunities to interact while not in the museum. Live webcasts, virtual tours, audio guides, and more can be accessed anywhere you are able to use the internet.
Do they provide devices? Do you use your own? – The museum offers audio guides to be used in the galleries. Visitors may also use their own smart phone, though it must be Apple or Android, to guide themselves through the galleries. They can even access audio information via their phones as well. I’m currently at my personal home listening to information about the “Fragonard Room,” which I find to be very a resourceful use of the app in that I can access this information from anywhere with my own device!
Is there a cost to use these? How much? – The audio guides and the app for personal devices are all free. The museum’s audio guide is offered in the price of admission.
Who, do you think, is the intended audience for each digital component? Who is it for? – It’s clear that its target audiences aligns with the intended audience for this audio guide, and possibly attracting a younger audience like myself to the app. Many adults are moving towards independent and digital usage, and many seniors use the audio guides to ease and educate their visiting experiences. The museum doesn’t allow children under the age of 10 into the Museum, and no one under the age of 18 is allowed to use the reference library. Though some would consider this exclusive, it is to maintain the order of the museum and preserve the safety of the artwork and its young visitors.
What is the goal of each component and is it successful in attaining that goal? Why or why not? – The goal is clearly to provide a completely immersive and educational experience. There are no plaques or text labels in any of the galleries to maintain minimalism in design. Audiences rely on the use of the item numbers and the audio guide to learn about both the works and the space they are in as each gallery was once used as a room in the Frick home.
Was the content useful/interesting? – I would have to say that it is extremely useful and very interesting. I have played on the app for a few days now, once before visiting, and several times after visiting. It is a great way to maintain engagement with an audience even after they leave the institution. It can even be a great way to connect with audiences that are not local to New York and just want to learn more about the institution. All of the information that is provided on the app is also provided on their website as they offer many opportunities to research and interact with the museum online through virtual tours, live webcasts, archives, and more.
What was the user experience like? Easy to navigate, nice to look at, clear instructions? – The audio guide is extremely easy to navigate. It resembled an old phone where number keys were entered based on the item number in the gallery. It is a random access digital guide that allows users to take random paths of viewership while still being able to use the guide. It offers information in six languages that are easy to select: English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, and Japanese.
The app is also very easy to navigate. It was a home page that shows all of what it offers in a list that is easy to navigate and explore. With the use of personal headphones, I could walk through the galleries and conveniently listen to information about the rooms and artworks.
Who is using it? – While observing others using the guides, I noticed a trend of much older audiences. I was also surprised that on a Wednesday afternoon, about 50% of the visitors were actively using these guides. I didn’t see anyone using their smart phones to access the app. This could be due to the convenience and attraction of using the free audio guide, the dissonance between its audience and using a mobile app, or because maybe no one else knew about it.
How are they using it? – Most visitors were using this audio guide on their own, which makes sense as audio guides are typically recognized in the GLAM world to be social inhibitors. They are using it to supplement their visual experience and replace the missing wall text with a more immersive audio experience.
Are they using it as intended by the museum do you think? – Yes, as each use of the audio guide was used by a visitor while standing either in a room or in front of a work of art in the room. I watched as visitors would stand, listen, observe, then move on to another piece and enter the item number into the device and then begin listening to the audio once again. I also saw a group of four sitting on one of the benches in the gallery listening together to the information on the audio guide. I would say the intended use of the guides is maintained with adequate seating within most of the galleries. Visitors, especially elderly, prefer to seat themselves in instances where they might want to stay for a while, whether that be an attraction to the work of art, or because they are listening to an audio guide. In this instance, it was easier for visitors to enjoy the full length of the audio guide because they were also provided adequate seating.
The use of the Music Room may not have been entirely what it was intended, but the fact that it typically only used as an “orientation” space may be difficult to gage its effectiveness. I did see about five people in the room, one group of three and two solitary individuals. The two individuals were quietly observing the screen, sitting, and seemingly relaxing. The others in the group were also silent, grouped together, and seemed to be more observant to the information in the “orientation” video. From what I observed, it seemed to be more of a visual attraction and place to rest semi-privately not in a gallery.
The use of the app may have less usage in the actual museum space, and therefore may not be used as intended. However, it does seem like the app is supposed to supplement the museum and the audio guide with more visitor centered information and a map. It is also lightly advertised on the website and in the museum itself, so a push for it to be used in the gallery may not be as encouraged as the audio guides.
How are they using it in relation to other experiences in the museum? Spending more time or less time? Using it in conjunction with something (wall text)? – Visitors are using it to really supplement their museum experience. It allows them to spend more time learning about the museum at their own pace and based on their own interests. The seating also encourages them to stay as long as they want in a particular area while listening to the audio guide. They don’t have to wait for a tour to receive in depth information about the museum and its works. There are also, as previously mentioned, no wall texts, so any information has to be obtained through either the mobile app, which was only used by me, or the audio guide, which was quite popular.
Are the experiences integrated into the museum experiences? – Yes, the use of the audio guide is greatly integrated into the museum experience, first with the ability to receive it for free at admission. Most visitors would find paying for an audio guide on top of an entrance fee to be a hinderance to its usage. At the Frick, it is almost encouraged. Replacing the wall text with item numbers that are used to access information via the audio guide allows for more information to be shared that might not fit in a small plaque, and it also allows for the information to reach multilingual audiences, which are quite popular for this institution because of its European relations.
The Music Room is only integrated into the museum experience as it is located inside the museum and offers the orientations about the museum and its audio guides.
Where are they located? – The audio guides are located upon entry into the museum, allowing for visitors to have easy access to them upon entering and leaving.
The Music Room is located within the museum though the garden, and it not really directing traffic. You will only know about it by reading the sign in front of the room’s door or doing extensive research on the room itself.
Are are they advertised/marketed? – The audio guides are advertised on the website and in the institution. I believe this is because they are greatly encouraged in use for both foreign language speakers and anyone wanting to gather information that has otherwise been omitted on the wall text or labels.