November 18, 2010  |  Collection & Exhibitions, Design, Tech
It Takes a Village to Create an Exhibition…App

If you’ve followed this blog for a while, you may already have the sense that a lot of people are involved in putting together an exhibition. Curators, preparators, conservators, exhibition designers, registrars, security, and others all have critical roles to play in what you see at the Museum. But what happens when you take the same approach when putting together an exhibition app?

When the new iPad came out, we were excited about how beautiful images of artwork looked on it. So this summer we decided to create our first app for the device, featuring a particular exhibition. The idea was to augment the other exhibition materials in a new way—more like a magazine than a tour—and to gear it not only to people who might come to see the exhibition, but also to those who may never physically visit MoMA. (In other words, it isn’t intended to be carried around the gallery like an audio tour.) The exhibition we wanted to showcase is Abstract Expressionist New York, an exhibition that includes works in MoMA’s collection and is currently on view until April. Ann Temkin, MoMA’s Chief Curator of Painting and Sculpture and the show’s organizer, introduces the exhibition in the video below:

The exhibition focuses on work created by artists in and around New York, so we decided to highlight the local aspect in the app through an interactive map that includes locations of the artists’ studios, galleries, hangouts, and other points of interest. We also wove in a series of wonderful videos on Abstract Expressionism created by the Education Department for their new online courses, including videos for key exhibition works, such as Chief by Franz Kline, and a glossary of art terms—some demonstrated through videos like the one below. The app also allows you to browse about 60 works from the publication and exhibition, either chronologically or by artist. Due to the newness of the platform and the experimental nature of the project, we were all learning about the capabilities of the iPad at the same time we were shaping the content to be displayed on it, which led to a simultaneous learning and development process.

We took an exhibition-type approach to developing the app—the curators, editors, archivists, and educators created the content, and producers and creative directors across Digital Media, Marketing, and Graphic Design managed the process—gathering materials, tracking feedback, coordinating with the design firm Deep Focus, and approving designs. While this is not to say that a cast of thousands is always needed to create an app (the entire team on MoMA’s iPhone app was three people), we did want to work collaboratively and cross-departmentally on this project in a way we never had before.

In upcoming posts, we’ll hear from various members of the team on their roles, their favorite parts of the project and even what they might have done differently. In the meantime, take a look at the new MoMA AB EX NY iPad app and tell us what you think and what you would like to see in the future. (We already have an update to the app in the works.) We hope you like it!