The art of presentation: National Gallery Singapore launches app and interactive displays

Mobile phone application helps visitors find their way around new attraction, tells them what works are nearby and offers more details about them

PUBLISHED : Friday, 27 November, 2015, 6:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 27 November, 2015, 9:32am

Riding on the trend among museums to better engage their audience through digital technology, the newly opened National Gallery Singapore has come up with a mobile phone app and an interactive platform that promise to offer visitors a more enjoyable and memorable experience.

The Gallery Explorer is a multi-function mobile application developed by Accenture that replaces the traditional audio guide, while the Social Table is made up of a series of touch screens that allows visitors to explore more than 170 artworks from its collection.

“We want to ensure that when visitors come to our museum and exhibitions, the interaction with the work of art itself is the most important experience that they will leave with, and remember,” says Eugene Tan, director of the museum, which focuses on modern art from Southeast Asia.

The Gallery Explorer app uses Bluetooth beacons to virtually connect visitors with their environment. They can create their own customised tours based on themes and share these with other art lovers, or just follow guided tours curated by the museum’s team of experts.

The app integrates with social media such as Facebook, allowing users to log in to their own profiles to share their experience with others. Given the National Gallery has a floor area of 64,000 square metres, it also helps visitors navigate the huge complex created within Singapore’s former City Hall and Supreme Court. It is available on iOS/App Store for download and the Chinese version is scheduled to launch on November 27. Andriod phone users will have to wait a little longer though.  

For the museum, information collected on visitor behaviour – which areas attract a bigger crowd, for instance – can help it better manage traffic flow.

Tan says the app, first and foremost, provides information on the artworks, offering detailed write-ups. In the future, videos and other content can be added to the database.

“So that provides another layer of information, which we don’t want to just have in the galleries because we want visitors to have that experience with the work of art, and not be distracted by all these other digital screens and information panels,” he says.

“We also understand that [the museum] is a complicated building to navigate so the app has a built-in function that helps you navigate your way. And if you press the ‘nearby’ function it tells you what artworks you have around you and have more information about them.”

The Social Table is large enough to accommodate 20 to 30 visitors standing around it, interacting with its touch screens. It’s a fun way to learn about the featured artworks as well as the associated artists and their many connections, says Tan.

“Other museums across the city are also developing their new digital applications ... but I think ours is quite unique,” he adds.