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New Hirshhorn multimedia tour makes the remarkable, relatable

It’s impossible to NOT react to Ron Mueck’s sculpture “Untitled (Big Man)” – the gigantic naked man is one of the first artworks you encounter as a visitor to the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington DC. He’s at once enigmatic and vulnerable, huddled massively in a corner. That’s why we chose him to be the opening experience on the new multimedia tour of the museum’s permanent collection. Individual voices of visitors, volunteers, museum guards, and others puzzling over him reflect and prompt you to examine your own reaction. Who is he? Is he real? Is he an adult man or an overgrown, punished child? Why do we feel so many emotions when we look at him?

The new guide is designed to be an “eyes-always-on-the-art” experience, focused around listening, and full of insightful, surprising and relatable stories that crack open the conceptual, contemporary works for which this Smithsonian museum is famous.

The approach to each audio message is bespoke, so no two messages are alike. For example, when viewing an Alberto Giacometti sculpture, a striking drama unfold: visitors become immersed in the sounds of a train journey made by the artist at the end of World War II, which highly influenced that artwork. At Leyva Novo’sFive Nights”, which comments on totalitarian manifestos throughout history, visitors listening to the artist’s voice are guided to look out of nearby windows to the National Archives Building across from the Museum. Hearing the artist’s reflections, they are also encouraged to consider the connection between revolutionary ideas and tyranny.

With its high resolution screen and quality audio capability, Antenna International’s latest multimedia player, the M3, is central to bringing the exhibits to life by pairing audio with visuals. Its Android operating system is familiar to visitors and easy to navigate, creating a seamless experience. Accessibility features such as induction loop and voice reader compatibilities, haptic feedback, text transcripts, and screen magnification improve the user experience.

Nina Callaway, content designer at Antenna International, comments:

“We knew our foremost goal was to connect to the Hirshhorn’s audience. To do so, we worked across the museum, and interviewed everyone from the director to the security guards to understand visitors’ curiosities and confusions. Out of this grew a very unique tour that we hope engages diverse visitors.”

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