MCA's new website, smartphone apps to boost art experience

Website includes virtual tour of artworks, while smartphone and tablet users can download augmented reality app to view video, 3D modelling

Following a nine-month development project which began in July 2011 to overhaul its 10-year-old website, the New South Wales Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) is set to unveil a new Web presence on 29 March this year where visitors can view selected art works and information about past or present collections online.

The website, which will also be launched in a smartphone-friendly format, will include an e-commerce portal provided by ticketing partner, Oztix, where patrons can buy tickets, browse gift shop items or pay their membership fees.

In addition, the MCA is launching two free iOS and Android-compatible applications from 29 March. The first is a smartphone app called MCA Insight which makes use of a location awareness system provided over the museum’s free Wi-Fi connection. The system gives patrons access to information on the artworks wherever they are in the MCA as well as an interactive map of the museum and multiple tours of artworks.

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The second, MCA OnSite, is an augmented reality iOS or Android app which can be used to overlay video or 3D models onto images of the museum following the development of a 3D model of the entire building. OnSite offers augmented reality experiences around Sydney on bus shelters, in MCA's publications and newspapers.

MCA digital media manager, Doctor Keir Winesmith, told Computerworld Australia that it developed MCA Insight rather than installing quick response (QR) codes next to artworks.

“We’re not a QR code place as I can’t see them surviving once near field communications [NFC] becomes popular,” Winesmith said. “We’ve taken a more agile approach. If you use our free Wi-Fi, the system knows what room you are in and the artworks you will be viewing so patrons don’t need to scan lots of QR codes.”

The MCA has also implemented new technology at its National Centre for Creative Learning (NCCL) where primary school and high school students can use touchscreen tablets provided by Dell to create their own works of art or research art history projects using the museum’s digital collection.

MCA chief operating officer, Euan Upston, said it has installed video conferencing equipment in the NCCL so students in cities from outside the state, such as Brisbane, can talk with artists while viewing their work. “We’re in talks with the New South Wales and Queensland Departments of Education about managing those video conferencing links so they can connect us with schools,” he said.

The MCA has also increased its data capacity through a partnership with storage vendor, EMC, which will give it 700 terabytes of storage to accommodate the digitisation of its physical art collection. Last year, Upston said in an interview with Computerworld Australia that its video and image collection was increasing at a rate of 35 terabytes per year.

Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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