Cheat Sheet: Useful Apps for Art Historians and Museum Visitors

I am interested in apps that are well made and what I mean with that is:

  • Easy understandable interface
  • Neat design
  • Additional information and material that complement the museum experience
  • Well-written and compelling content
  • Thoughtful gimmicks: Gamification-elements can be nice to target new and other audiences. They can come in the form of a quiz, a treasure hunt through the museum, thematic picture taking possibilities and a way to share the images with the museum community. These are just some thoughts here, the possibilities are tremendous
  • Availability and compatibility for different devices (mobile, tablet) and operating systems
  • Regular updates of the app
  • It would be great if more museums would provide free WiFi. As more and more people are travelling a lot, the internet access is important. Offline apps often need really big storage space. 

In short, I do not need necessarily the newest app technology to be interested in the content of an app, just provide me with further insights and an additional experience in a compelling way and I'm happy.

The apps in this list run on Android, but I believe that most of them are also available for iOS and they are all free of charge up to now.

Art Education

Art Project which is powered by Google and allows you to virtually walk through the halls of museums across the world, view artworks in high-definition quality, and share artworks with others for conversation. Below is the TED presentation of Amit Sood who discusses his development of 17 art museums from nine countries on the web. His main motive for developing this project with Google was to provide students across the world with access to some of the world’s best museums

Daily Art this app provides you every day with a piece of art and its background information. Art has a lot do to with seeing and getting familiar. Of course the app doesn’t cover everything, but it is a nice way to proof your knowledge and maybe learn something new.

Artmapp (German) this app informs you about more than 8000 exhibition venues in the German speaking countries Germany, Switzerland and Austria. You can select different categories from museums, galleries to auction houses.

Museums (Alphabetical order)

Berlin Museum Island Apps and Guides Information on the Altes Museum, Neues Museum, Alte National Gallery, and Pergamon Museum. This app works as offline app, which might come in handy.

British Museum Information on the British Museum, National Gallery, and Natural History Museum. This apps works also offline.

Ask Brooklyn Museum you can use the app once you entered the museum. It came out very recently in mid-April 2016, this is why I still didn't get a chance to try this app. It was developed for a new experience in museum visitor engagement by allowing users to pose question about about any work of art on view at the Museum and receive answers from the Audience Engagement Team in real time.

MACBA The app includes information on museum exhibitions, calendar of activities and augmented reality features on some of MACBA's Collection works.

Museo del Prado the museum offers different apps according to your needs. I like the Second Canvas app a lot (Careful the app is really big 350 MB, make sure to have enough space on your device). It allows you to go in-depth into 14 masterpieces of the collection like Las Meninas, or The Family of Felipe IV. Diego Velázquez, The Third of May 1808 in Madrid: the executions on Principe Pio hill. Francisco de Goya or the Self-portrait of Albrecht Dürer. You can access the twitter feed according to different hashtags. The app is announced with this video.

Rijksmuseum The app is specially build for use in the museum itself, not all functionalities will work outside the museum. You can select different tours through the museum, a highlights tour in 90 min. or thematic tours through the collection. As gimmick there is the family quest, a game that can be played by a minimum of two and maximum of four players, each on their own smartphone. The family quest takes families on a tour past eight objects in the museum, and at each one they are challenged to unravel its secret.

Städel Museum The Städel Museum is probably one of the tech-savviest museums in Germany. As feature the app offers an image scanner that recognizes works from the collection and provides background information and there are some short audio, video and text materials on around 100 pieces. These are the good parts, the down side is that you have to pay for the audio tours. I know there is a politic around which information should be provided free of charge, but it would be great to access the audio tours. It helps that you get to visit the amazing digitorial section for free, where you can find important background information about the exhibitions.

Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza | Quiosco The museum's education area provides digital publications outlining the educative activities. There are sections on education, exhibitions and restoration in Spanish and English.

Listening

Podcast addict is an Android app that allows you to manage your Podcast subscriptions. For some great culture podcast recommendations visit this other cheat sheet.

Further Links of interest

I am really interested in your recommendations. Which apps are missing on this list that you really like and find useful? Leave a comment below or get in touch with me. I would love to hear from you.