More Museum Apps, Please

“When you’ve got an elephant by the hind leg, and he’s trying to run away, it’s best to let him run.” So says an actor portraying Abe Lincoln in a new iPhone app commemorating the 200th anniversary of the Great Emancipator’s birth.

abrahamThe actual program itself is . . . well, it’s useless. It’s a kind of a neat portrait of Honest Abe, and when you tap the screen, you get one of six wisdom-filled quotations read in deep stentorian voice. Which we think is a historical inaccuracy, but never mind that now. The program’s one other feature is a button that links you a page on the Rosenbach Museum’s website, called “21st Century Abe” (the Rosenbach has a collection of Lincoln’s papers; this app seems like it’s basically an ad for the museum itself to drive traffic to their website). While this effort is simple, it’s harmless (and free!), we hope the release signals the beginning of a deluge of Museum-produced software designed to give visitors better access to and a more enriching experience from collections.

For instance—why no Met Museum map app, with a Google Earth style interface allowing you to find the room you want? It could have a text search function, so if you wanted to see something particular—“Van der Weyden” or “frieze”— you could find the quickest path to your goal. And it would be easily updatatble: the reason that the Met doesn’t currently have a comprehensive, detailed floor plan map is that the configuration changes often when things get lent out or new shows arrive. It might save some money on printing maps. And if people paid for it, it’d give the museum another source of revenue in what I imagine is a rough time for them financially. Not to mention it could incorporate mp3s of those walking tours that you currently have to rent bulky Walkman-style apparatuses to hear . . . you listening, the Met?

Anyone have a recommendation for a good existing museum application?