New App Teaches Young Kids about Art at the Milwaukee Art Museum

January 21, 2016

MILWAUKEE, Wis. – January 20, 2016 – A fun, innovative app designed exclusively for children visiting the Milwaukee Art Museum has been launched by Antenna.   The new app is uniquely segmented for two groups of young visitors – ages 4-7 and 8-12 – and is playfully designed to engage kids, providing fun ways to experience the Museum, and inspire them to explore the content and collections.  It is the first museum app developed specifically for audiences this young.

“There’s a higher standard when developing an app for younger visitors, especially for a Museum that’s nationally recognized for its innovative art education programming,” said Sofie Andersen, Executive Producer for Antenna. “Working together with the team at the Museum, we identified a playful interface design focusing on new features that could translate into using the app at home as well as at the museum.”

The “A is for Art” audio tour experience is designed for the Museum’s youngest visitors aged 4-7 and is charmingly voiced by child actors. By way of this tour, kids are immediately engaged in the ABC’s of what they are seeing in the artworks, starting with “A is for Angel” at  Abbott Thayer’s An Angel (1893) and ending with “Z is for Zoo” at Giovanni Castiglione’s Noah and the Animals Entering the Ark, (ca. 1650).  The app features short audio excerpts that encourage discussion between the adults and the children in the group.

The “Eye-Touch” tour is for children aged 8-12 and uses a mix of audio, video and interactive games to introduce kids to more than 40 works in the collection. The tour balances fun experiences – such as behind-the-scenes video footage of artists at work and on-screen activities, with audio-messages aimed at helping kids to look closely and engage with the art. As an example, children can see a spoof weather report from a local meteorologist based on a painting they’re observing – or participate in games where they pick and mix together the sound effects.

Antenna has taken the popular social media phenomenon – “selfies” – and created the “Art Selfie,” a fun camera function to encourage kids to connect directly with the art they are looking at, and in turn, be creative themselves. Using the camera, kids take a Selfie and insert themselves into a selection of art works, then share the resulting image on social media or save them on their device.  This feature uses the Museum’s collection of anonymous 18th and 19th century portrait miniatures to give visitors a chance to see how they would look as a work of art.

This hands-on engagement reflects an emerging best practice in the museum industry that encourages the use of multiple access points, including serendipitous surprises known in the tech industry as “Easter eggs.”

“Who doesn’t want to take a selfie with a work of art, play taxi radio stations, or discover other fun ways to engage with the museum?” Anderson said. “We know people love to use their cameras in museums and the Art Selfie is a great way to turn that behavior into a creative and fun experience.  Instead of saying ‘no’ to phones and cameras, this brings visitors right into experience.  We’ve been testing all of these activities with kids over the last few months and they absolutely love playing with the features, and we have a feeling parents will be getting in on the act, too!”

The app was developed as part of the Kohl’s Art Generation project, for the Museum’s Apple devices – and it can be downloaded as well, allowing kids to resume the experience at a later time, either at the Museum or remotely.

“The new app not only provides structured tours for our young visitors and their families, but it also offers lots of serendipitous discoveries – as well as the chance to make, bookmark and share their discoveries using social media,” said Brigid Globensky, Senior Director of Education at Milwaukee Art Museum. “It’s a perfect complement to the full range of activities families can have in our newly renovated galleries and we love that they can now share their experiences and continue exploring once they are home.”

The app is available for download.

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