Software Development

The Barnes created an ‘interpretive guide’ you can use on any smartphone

Visitors can hold their camera up to a piece of work, and the tool will use image-recognition technology to send them information and anecdotes about the art.

The Barnes Focus tool in action. (Photo courtesy of the Barnes Foundation)

Following the Barnes Foundation’s work using technology to help Philadelphians connect to art in new ways, visitors who bring along their smart phone to the museum can now access extra information or stories about the artwork via its new online guide, Barnes Focus.

No app download required: The tool is accessible to anyone with camera access and a web browser via Users hold their camera up to a piece of work, and the guide uses image-recognition technology to send information about it.

“For example, focusing on a Renoir painting may prompt a story about [founder] Dr. Barnes’ love of the artist’s work and how he amassed the largest Renoir collection in the world,” the foundation said in its announcement.

Other stories highlight themes like music or dance, or historical connections between paintings and objects. The guide will also use visitors’ interest in a particular piece as a starting point and introduce other works in the room, and browsing history is automatically saved when users enter their email addresses. Information about the works can be consumed in Spanish, French, German, Italian, Russian, Chinese, Japanese and Korean.

“This is a particularly crucial step for the Barnes, as founder Dr. Albert C. Barnes’ unconventional arrangements do not include interpretive content on the gallery walls,” the foundation said.

The tool is the result of a collaboration between the Barnes’ curatorial, education and technology teams and was supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation as part of the
Knight Center for Digital Innovation in Audience Engagement at the Barnes.

Barnes Focus was developed as open source software by HappyFunCorp, a software engineering firm in Brookly. Its code repository available on the Barnes’ GitHub.

“Barnes Focus is an example of the exciting ways museums can use technology to inspire, delight and educate visitors,” said Thom Collins, the foundation’s executive director and president. “We are committed to thoughtfully and strategically leveraging technology — combined with the expertise of our educators, curators, visitor engagement team and technologists — to stimulate curiosity, social engagement and personal connections with art.”

Companies: Barnes Foundation

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