This month, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco unveiled the official app for the Legion of Honor. Taking advantage of Apple’s latest developments in indoor positioning, the app will serve as a personal tour guide for museum-goers, allowing visitors to wander the galleries as if on a private curatorial tour. This is the first app for the Legion of Honor. Given the new line up of shows – Raphael’s “Lady with a unicorn,” and the upcoming shown on Pierre Bonnard, the app should prove a valuable addition to the museum experience.
The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco collaborated with Guidekick, a local start-up that offers a mobile application platform focused on visitor experiences. The first result of the collaboration debuted in October 2015 with an app for the Legion of Honor’s sister institution, the de Young museum. The de Young was the first museum to take advantage of this new technology.
“The plan was always to create an app for both museums,” said Gary Castro, chief information officer of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. “By launching first at the de Young, we were able to test patrons’ response to this technology and create a stronger version for the Legion of Honor.”
The Legion of Honor app features a 3D map of the building that pinpoints a visitor’s location to ease navigation and way-finding. The app allows a user to select a thematic tour that leads them to a curated selection of works, or to navigate the galleries more freely, as location-aware alerts notify them when they pass by key artworks. The app also offers thematic tours of the permanent collection using images and audio from the museum’s curatorial team, as well as special features on the unique architecture of the building. This original content is available exclusively through the app, and will soon expand to offer information on special exhibitions, including the upcoming “Pierre Bonnard: Painting Arcadia.”
Unlike many audio tours the Legion of Honor app automatically triggers content without requiring the visitor to take an additional action, such as typing a number or scanning a code. The app has also been carefully designed to help visitors engage with artwork without visual distraction and to avoid disrupting the experience of other patrons. Users simply put the phone to their ear to trigger the recording, which then plays privately, mirroring the receiving of a phone call.
“We’re excited to be at the forefront of the intersection of art and technology,” said Richard Benefield, acting director of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. “Apps like this are the future of the museum experience and enable us to take engagement beyond the walls of the Museums.”
The app also offers insights into the visitor experience, helping the Legion of Honor to build richer, more tailored experiences for visitors. Currently the app is only available for iPhone users. An Android version is forthcoming. There is no word yet on the future of the museum’s highly trained docents.