Unlocking ‘Multichannel Curation’ in AR and delivering remote, immersive cultural encounters for museums and galleries
Masterpieces@Home is a mobile AR app, designed as a content platform and digital outreach offering for large and medium-sized cultural institutions. Our app allows users to digitally ‘hang’ artworks from cultural institutions on the walls of their own home, and then explore the artworks in the company of a diverse range of immersive companions including curators, artists, historians and performers.
Developed in partnership with National Gallery and created as a direct response to the Covid-19 pandemic, our app delivers an immersive “digital cultural visit” directly into users’ homes. Through AR the user accesses a tangible, in-person experience of artwork-as-object. Meanwhile, via an innovative interface, users select from a broad range of personality-led immersive content channels, each of which guides the user on a different path around the artworks and provides different insights, interpretations and artistic responses.
In our prototype experience ‘Diana and Actaeon’, users encounter not only one of the National Gallery’s greatest treasures, but also a broad range of historical scholarship and debate. The experience includes over 60 minutes of immersive guide commentary by artists, art historians, storytellers, classicists and engineers.
Masterpieces@Home was born from Playlines’ National Gallery X residency between March and July 2020, where our research proposal originally focused on “multichannel curation”. Unlike reality, information design in AR is non-zero-sum. Unlimited amounts of information, and hence multifarious and even conflicting interpretations of an artwork, could be tagged to the artwork in AR and made available to the digital patron. We believe that today’s cultural audiences are more and more accustomed to navigating complex digital webs of information and interpretation, and increasingly expect more nuanced approaches to cultural provenance than a single, monolithic institutional statement. Our vision was to develop a ‘visit companion’ app allowing visitors to explore ‘constellations’ of diverse, interlinked commentary and curatorial content, augmented onto a Gallery artwork.
One week in, lockdown happened. Within a week we had adapted our idea, and have now built and delivered a remote experience of NG artworks into users’ own homes through AR, combined with an innovative “multichannel curation” interface. Our app, co-designed with NG curators and carefully tested across NG patrons, with a particular focus on 65yo+, now allows remote cultural audiences to immersively explore artworks at home, at their own pace and while accessing a diverse range of NG companion content.
Content and artworks can be added on a rolling basis, providing long-term extension of the “digital visit” and maintaining an open portal between institution and digital patron.