Topics: College of Fine Arts, Emerging Media, Immersive Learning
February 10, 2015
Honors Humanities Professor Timothy Berg and student Janie Fulling discuss a prompt they helped create for The Infinite Museum app, which allows
users to engage with works at Ball State's David Owsley Museum of Art in new
Timothy Berg stands before King Henry V Courting Princess Catherine of Valois inside the David Owsley Museum of Art. He chuckles at the words on his iPad: "Princess Catherine seems completely bored with Henry. Give him a better pickup line."
"That's a fun one," the Honors College humanities professor said of the mischievous prompt, one of 1,500 on the university's new web-based app, The Infinite Museum.
The calls to action range from light-hearted to introspective and incorporate every part of the museum, including the four new galleries added in 2013. Berg’s students designed all of the prompts as invitations to museumgoers to interact with art in new ways.
"We hope by using it, visitors learn a lot about themselves, the art, and each other," said Junior integrated studies major Lauren King, who helped develop the app.
‘Another layer’ for museum experience
Berg wanted to create the app to expand upon the traditional museum experience, which can intimidate many people.
"Find a work of art that describes your feelings toward your boss."
"In which gallery do you feel most a stranger? Why?"
"Choose any artwork in the museum that you would like to see on a stamp."
"We wanted to add another layer, to go beyond the notion you might need an art history degree to appreciate art,” he said. “This app is like having a small person on your shoulder, asking you to think differently about the works you're seeing."
Tania Said, the museum's director of education, said most museum apps function as walking tours or browsing devices offering encyclopedic details about works. But not The Infinite Museum.
"The prompts have just the right touch of regard for the collection and irreverence so that it feels fun, almost as if you are playing in the museum," she said.
Students drive app’s development
The sense of play is exactly what Berg and his interdisciplinary team of 14 students had in mind when they created the app during a fall 2014 Virginia B. Ball Center seminar.
The students researched industry trends and visited museums in New York City. They then wrote the prompts and designed the app with help from the university's Digital Corps.
The resulting site is the first web app created for the museum and one that can be used for free from any device—smartphone, tablet, or desktop computer—with no download needed.
Sophomore Honors College student and integrated studies major Janie Fulling said working on the app was a revealing experience for her and her classmates.
"Coming up with these prompts was a lot of fun and we really got to know each other's personalities," she said. "We all have this relationship now, a bond we never would have experienced in a traditional classroom."
A model for future applications
Berg said he enjoyed seeing his students connect through the project, which they hope now can become a model for future museum apps. One-third of the prompts are general enough that visitors to any art museum can use them, he noted.
"I've not seen anything else out there quite like it.”