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Singapore’s National Gallery steps into the digital future

Nayela Deeba | March 15, 2017
Kevin Lim, Deputy Director at National Gallery, talks about the Gallery Explorer mobile app as well as the gallery’s other digital efforts to enhance the visitor experience.

National Gallery Singapore
National Gallery Singapore building. Credit: National Gallery's Facebook page

Art galleries are usually associated with paintings, portraits and sculptures instead of technology. However, consumers are increasingly demanding digital experiences from any organisation they engage with.

With this understanding, the National Gallery Singapore partnered Accenture Singapore two years ago and developed a mobile app called Gallery Explorer.

Deepak Iyer, Programme Director of the Accenture-National Gallery collaboration, told Computerworld Singapore that the app enabled National Gallery to "enhance the appreciation of art by delivering experience that exceeded visitor expectations." The app "incorporates proximity sensing technology to provide contextual data that helps visitors navigate their way around the gallery, and discover rich and intriguing content about an artwork or artist. [Visitors can] even customise their own tours and browse artworks directly from their devices."

The development of the Gallery Explorer app drew on the experience of Accenture's past partnerships with leading art museums such as The Louvre and The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), he added.

Even so, the National Gallery studied the needs and wants of their visitors before developing the mobile app to ensure its relevance. According to Kevin Lim, Deputy Director, National Gallery, the gallery first conducted focus groups with different groups of visitors — such as school students, old/young couples, and working adults — to find out their thoughts on museums and what they found lacking in their museum experience. After which, the results were compiled and analysed with the help of Google Analytics. 

Realising that visitors highly value social media and participatory engagement, the app was developed to "emphasise on socialisation of liking, artwork sharing and commenting," said Lim. He added: "We wanted to emphasise that the museum is not a space where you just go in and absorb information, but [a place where] you create an effect and leave a presence."

The mobile app also uses location-based technology, iBeacon, and a mapping system to ensure it is accurate and easy for museum-goers to navigate. "The mapping system is based on an indoor navigation system. We have the entire building laid out with high beacons in the exhibition spaces so that [the app can accurately identify] the artwork closest to the user," Lim explained.

So far, the adoption of the Gallery Explorer app has been "fairly consistent" but lower than that of audio guide services. "If you look at total museum population, we get just 5 percent take-up rate against overall visitorship population.  It sounds little, but it is actually quite good. App take-up rate around the world for museums tends to be around 2 to 5 percent, while [adoption rate of ] audio guide devices is about 10 percent," said Lim.


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