The Brooklyn Museum is as traditional a museum as museums go (though one could argue that the work of artist Takashi Murakami currently on display is far from traditional). But much like journalism, another age-old institution, this museum is embracing the mobile phone and other new technology to heighten the experience of its visitors.
In the past one could meander haplessly through the halls, gawking at art and artifacts with no more understanding of each work than what was written on a tiny placard. Now, some of those placards have a cell phone icon and a number to dial that provides even more information about a particular exhibit.
At the Brooklyn Museum, visitors can call (718) 352-9589 and enter the item number displayed near the artwork (e.g. 12 corresponds to the intricate work “Flower Matango”) and listen to either the artist (in this case Murakami) or a curator discuss the piece. The best part is museum guests are allowed to leave comments on the phone system as they navigate through its halls.
It is true that other museums have special listening devices, but most can only be used in that particular location. Making the audio available by phone means that any of the billions of cell phone users worldwide can access the additional information. The theory is similar to creating a multimedia project that only works in Firefox. Sure, a large percentage of users can access the content, but those that can’t aren’t exactly willing to download a new browser just to view the one site.
Other multimedia features of the museum include video incorporated into the exhibits through the use of high definition televisions and computers strategically placed around the museum for visitors to leave comments. At last check, one computer had 474 comments, an impressive number for any institution, whether it be a museum or online news site.