The Hirshhorn Eye: Scan Art, Discover Artists

Client testimonial

“It’s beautifully streamlined, and a leap forward in both functionality and how it integrates into your museum visit.” – Melissa Chiu, Director of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden (taken from Fast Company)

Client Profile

Open to the public 364 days a year, with free admission, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden is the most visited modern art museum in the United States. The museum holds an impressive collection of post-war American and European art, and hosts cutting-edge exhibitions, events and research. The Hirshhorn museum encourages modern artists to explore new ways to create, giving the artists of today a national platform for performance, digital media, video and technology.


With many museum digital products requiring a time-consuming app download, and lackluster, duplicative content, The Hirshhorn challenged the team to create a visitor companion that would serve as an example to the field of innovation in museum interpretation.

“What could be better than seeing Annette Lemieux reenact her signature walking painting technique while seeing her footprints on the canvas, or peering over Ed Atkins’ shoulder at his computer just after you encounter his CGI installation?” Melissa Chiu, Hirshhorn Director shared.

The only problem with this unique experience was that it required technology not yet available for web browsers on iPhones. Additionally, it had to pass the strict security, privacy, and access requirements of the Smithsonian – a Federal institution. With this in mind, The Hirshhorn needed a partner with expertise in both ambitious technical projects and savvy museum content production.


The Hirshhorn selected Antenna International to lead the team bringing this project, titled The Hirshhorn Eye, (or, Hi) to life.
The team set out to develop the technology and the project in parallel to one another, with a clean and straightforward design as well as seamless, user-friendly technology. No more tedious, time-consuming app downloads or cluttered menu bars – instead a quick and easy user experience that kept an audience immersed in what was most important: the art.

Antenna collaborated with, project managed and lead multiple businesses and organizations within and outside of the museum to bring this project to life. Linked By Air supported the technical development and design portion of the project, Captain and the Fox executed the video production, and Hirshhorn curators and visitor focus groups also played a key role in this year-long project.

Managing these players, Antenna helped to scope the project, mapped the user journeys, set the schedule and project phases, ran all user testing, directed the content strategy, produced content, and ensured each vendor utilized best practices throughout the work. For each phase of work, Antenna presented the Hirshhorn with evaluations, project schedule updates, design research and software development.

Within five months Antenna and the team completed a prototype ready for initial user testing. Antenna developed the user testing protocols and brought in visitor focus groups across key demographics. Four months later, after constantly iterating based on those results, a second round of user testing with content prototypes helped further refine the product. These included millennials, families with young children, small groups of adults, seniors, and visitors who are blind/low-vision and deaf. Groups left with positive experiences, enjoying the simplicity of the technology, ease of use, and direct artist experience.

Ultimately, Antenna worked with Captain and the Fox and the Museum to produce over 150 pieces of custom content specifically for the Hirshhorn Eye project. A mix of video, audio, and text allows visitors to dive deeper without overwhelming them. These pieces of content, as well as the product itself, were developed for every museum visitor—keeping families, millennials, seniors, non-native English speakers, and visitors with access needs in mind.

In its final state of production, the HI is a first of its kind in-gallery art guide that uses image recognition to scan art as you view, instantly displaying artist videos and insider info. The Hi includes an interactive map of the building; subtle help prompts, which appear when needed; and real-time information about which artworks others are viewing. Users can even enter their email to receive a ” catalogue” or timeline of the works they scanned during their visit.


With a clean user interface and intuitive features, the Hirshhorn Eye is easy for everyone to navigate. Utilizing a universal design approach, the project incorporates accessibility features such as closed captions for all audio and video, voice-over for all onscreen text, audio-descriptive versions of all video, and haptic feedback. Acting as an instant art guide, the Hi connects museum goers directly with the artists behind the art on view, exploring the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of contemporary art.

Rather than utilizing a formal curatorial voice, Hi has its own friendly personality. It informs, gives facts and provides tidbits of information that delight in a surprising and informal way. Artists speak directly to the video camera, giving the user a feeling of having a personal conversation with the artists.
Visitor Feedback

  • “I like that it feels a lot more modern than other museum app/tours that I’ve used. Others feel early 2000, this feels like it’s in 2018.”
  • “I didn’t think that technology would make me more present, but it did. Made me want to stay for longer and made the overall experience better.”
  • “I liked that the videos were the right length, the info was very worthwhile to watch. Scanning was cool. I think people will get a kick out of that.”

Contact us to find out more about this or any of our projects

Contact Us
Hirshhorn Museum
Country: USA
City: Washington, DC
Institution Type: Art
Year Founded: 1974
Content Type: Multimedia
Tour Type: Adult

Partner with Antenna

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About Us

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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