Thinking | Articles

Rethinking the Museum Experience

By Charlie Herrmann
Click here to learn more about the SFMoMa’s audio app
As a Millennial, I struggle to find a reason to go to art museums regularly. Why should I go to a museum I have been to before and pay an admission fee when I consume hundreds of new videos, paintings, sculptures, posters and photographs online daily?

I had a glimpse of what that answer could be last winter during my second visit to the New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). From start to finish, I listened to music on my headphones while browsing the different pieces of art. Surprisingly, I found myself experiencing a very personal sensory experience through the combination of music and visual art. In my mind, the music and art started syncing perfectly — it was almost as if the paintings came to life, and I started to tell myself stories about the scene, where it took place, who the characters were, and what may happen next. The music transformed my visual experience into a multi-sensorial one, and I felt touched and creatively involved on a much deeper level than I was used to.

This memory instantly came to mind when I read about the SFMoMA’s new audio app. The app transforms the way one navigates through the curated space by using audio to convey an emotional and genuine experience. The app offers different tours, narrated by the voices of famous podcasters, artists, and actors and pace your journey, suggests you where to look and involve you in personal conversations. It isn’t your regular audio tour: Keir Winesmith, head of SFMOMA’s digital platforms, describes the experience as ‘Philosophical & Emotional, and ‘Hilarious & Strange’, with, for example, actors like Martin Starr and Kumail Nanjiani debating if Marcel Dunchamp’s urinal is a masterpiece or just an overrated piece of junk.

This is an exciting step to reimagine the entire museum experience. We believe it gives museums the opportunity to deeply connect with new consumers (and new generations), as well as entice visitors to return again and again, guiding them on a unique adventure with each visit.

We recommend reading more about the app and watching the introductory video here and discover the new design of the SFMoMa here.