Milwaukee Art Museum app: for children by children

Client profile
The Milwaukee Art Museum (MAM) was founded in 1888 and has grown to hold a collection of over 30,000 works of art from antiquity to the present, encompassing painting, drawing, sculpture, decorative arts, German Expressionist prints and paintings, 19th-century German painting and decorative arts, folk and Haitian art, and American art after 1960.  Its campus includes the Santiago Calatrava-designed Quadracci Pavilion and the Eero Saarinen-designed Milwaukee County War Memorial Center.
The Museum is nationally recognized for its well-known innovative art education programming for children, known as “Kohl’s Art Generation” (Kohl’s is a major department store in the United States).
Challenge – an app for different age groups
Antenna International started working with Milwaukee Art Museum (MAM) in 2001 on the first of many temporary exhibitions. In 2011, Antenna created their first multimedia children’s tour which was updated in 2014 as the “Kohl’s Art Generation” app.  In 2016, new content and games were added, along with a new design. The app is available on IOS and Android and as an onsite device.
Five years after the initial launch, the first version of the app was feeling a bit outdated. The goal of the 2016 redesign was to update the look and feel for a more sophisticated audience, with the latest, dynamic functionalities of iOS 9.
The new app needed to speak to different age groups – 4-7-year-olds as well as 8-12-year-olds – from a navigational, design and narrative point-of-view.
Solution – involving children in the development process
Antenna created an entirely new way to navigate to the content, with multiple points of entry.  While the original version had good usage offsite, Antenna set out to include features that would help the museum engage with users as much offsite as on. Collaboration with the Museum helped to develop a playful interface design focusing on new features that could translate into using the app at home as well as at the museum.
Antenna tested prototypes with children during focus groups to make sure the new features resonated and iterated design based on the feedback that they provided.
The resulting app is uniquely segmented for two groups of young visitors – ages 4-7 and 8-12 – and is the first museum app developed specifically for audiences this young.  It is specifically designed to engage interest, creating fun and playful ways to experience the Museum and inspire them to explore the content and collections.
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.
The “Art Selfie” is a hands-on engagement that reflects an emerging best practice in the museum industry encouraging the use of multiple access points, including serendipitous surprises known as “Easter eggs”.  Instead of saying ‘no’ to phones and cameras, it brings visitors right into the experience.
The app enables young visitors and their families to discover and be part of the array of portrait miniatures in MAM’s permanent collection. By uploading selfies to MAM’s Kohl’s Art Generation app, through visitors’ own and onsite devices, children and their families transport themselves back in time, seeing themselves as they could have looked in the past, as well-heeled 18th-century ladies and gentlemen. Much like miniature portraits in that long-ago era, these selfies are shareable via social media –  an educational experience that ties the past to the present day.18th century ladies and gentlemen. Much like miniature portraits in that long-ago era, these selfies are shareable via social media –  an educational experience that ties the past to the present day.
After playing with the Art Selfie, visitors are inclined to look at the art itself differently; paying close attention to the attire, hairstyles, and expressions on the actual paintings. Understanding how we are not that different from our ancestors who wanted to be remembered at their best is a subtle but delightful take away.
Results – 9000 downloads and high press coverage
The app is available onsite via one of 50 cased Apple devices (provided by Antenna) or for download on Android and IOS devices, allowing kids to resume the experience at a later time, either at the Museum or remotely. There have been a total of 9000 downloads as of September 2017.
The app has received a high level of press coverage on CBS, NBC, and Fox local affiliate networks, raising awareness of the Museum to a new audience of visitors.

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Contact Us
Milwaukee Art Museum
Country: United States
City: Milwaukee
Institution Type: Art
Year Founded: 1888
Content Type: Audio, Multimedia
Exhibit Functionalities: Games

Partner with Antenna

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We are innovative storymakers and creative technologists devoted to visitor-first experiences.

We make audio tours, mobile apps, multimedia guides, podcasts, interactives, and superior story-driven content for the museum and cultural sector.

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