The de Young's New Mobile App Is Like a Private Tour With a Curator

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The old museum audio tours of yore are no more—not that you've taken one lately. Now, at the de Young Museum in San Francisco, a nifty mobile app with pioneering indoor positioning technology can take us through the collections and tell us everything we need to know. 


Powered by Guidekick, the app is loaded with original conversations with de Young Museum curators as they discuss their favorite works of art. If you imagine that acting director Richard Benefield is actually standing in front of David Hockney’s Seven Yorkshire Landscapes as he talks about the video you see on the flat-screen monitors, that's because he is—or rather he was at the time of recording. Guidekick CEO Mark Paddon explains:

“One of the most stale and boring things when you take an audio guide is that it’s just somebody with a monotone voice telling you about stuff. By setting the curators in front of the piece, we got to hear more passion and [were able to] dive down different avenues for stories that wouldn’t have come up in a more formal recording environment.” 

In addition to the VIP feeling that comes with a tour of the museum guided by its top talent, the app provides an interactive 3D map to help you find your way around. With your phone in your pocket, the app will trigger an alert as you approach a work of art connected to its content. Bring your phone to your ear and the programming begins. Set it down and it pauses again.

The de Young's app currently offers deep insight into 33 works of art (there are more to come in the months ahead), as well as four guided tours through the collections Africa, Oceania and the Americas, Early American, and Contemporary American. Don't miss out on the Observation Tower, where you’ll glean fresh insight into the de Young’s history and architecture.

“We have a new millennial audience that wants information now...and they want to engage with [art] differently,” says Gary Castro, chief information officer of the Fine Arts Museums of SF, which will also launch an at for the Legion of Honor soon.  //  The de Young app is available for download now on iOS and will be available soon on Android. 

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