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SFMOMA Announces Rooftop Sculpture Garden App for iPad

Continuing to pioneer use of new media and technologies, SFMOMA launches mobile gallery guide for iPad

Released: April 02, 2010 ·

Today the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) announced its interactive Rooftop Garden App for iPad is now available on App Store. The app is an enhanced version of the Rooftop Garden App for iPhone and iPod Touch, a multimedia guide originally launched in January 2010 on the occasion of the museum’s 75th anniversary.

From the museum that brought visitors the very first handheld multimedia gallery tour back in 2001 comes a new way to explore modern and contemporary art. The Rooftop Garden App for iPad lets visitors get up close and personal with both the artworks and the careful planning that went into creating the entire Rooftop Sculpture Garden experience.  It provides access to the garden from all angles, with commentary about the sculptures, an interview with the architects, plan drawings of the space, a musical response by saxophonist George Brooks, a video feature on the people behind the Rooftop Coffee Bar featuring Blue Bottle Coffee, and remarks from SFMOMA Director Neal Benezra on the finished space. The iPad app, in particular, has improved user-feedback capabilities for Twitter and makes other user’s Tweets visible, deepening the two-way communication between the museum and its global network of followers.

“The traditional audio tour is ripe for reinvention,” says Peter Samis, SFMOMA associate curator of interpretation. “While traditional tours still appeal to many visitors, members of Gen X and the Millennials identify with personal technology as a lifestyle choice and are looking for interpretive experiences in the museum to reflect this reality. Our Rooftop Garden guide mobilizes a trove of information for on-demand use, with contextual material on tap to meet visitors where they are, both physically and conceptually.”

Both the iPhone and iPad versions of the mobile application were developed in close partnership with NOUS-guide, a leading Vienna-based firm that has pioneered innovation in the mobile space, including a deployment of 900 devices in over 30 languages for the European parliament. This is their first collaboration with a major U.S. museum.

The Rooftop Garden App for iPad is available for free from the App Store on iPad or at www.itunes.com/appstore/.

An Early Adopter of Technology

Reflecting the Bay Area’s renown for pioneering new technologies and ways of thinking, SFMOMA is widely acknowledged as a leader among museums worldwide for using technology to engage audiences of all ages, both on site and online. From its original website—one of the first launched by a U.S. art museum—and prizewinning interpretive CD-ROMS of the 1990s to its innovative podcasts and multimedia gallery tours of the 2000s, SFMOMA has consistently forged new models for museum education by developing in-house expertise in rich-media tools that enhance public understanding of modern and contemporary art. The advent of the Rooftop Garden iPad app furthers this commitment to online culture and technological advancement, and to fostering meaningful dialogue with audiences.

SFMOMA first established an Interactive Educational Technologies (IET) program in 1994, putting it at the forefront of museums developing interactive educational features on art. The following year, in celebration of the opening of SFMOMA’s Mario Botta–designed building, three new IET programs launched, among them a kiosk-based interactive guide to the collection called Making Sense of Modern Art. SFMOMA’s first public website also went live in 1995, making the museum one of the earliest institutions to embrace this medium. Two years later, in 1997, SFMOMA won numerous awards for its in-depth CD-ROM feature Voices and Images of California Art, one of the first multimedia productions published by an art museum.

In 2000 the original Making Sense of Modern Art was reinvented, this time vastly expanded as an online broadband Flash feature to elucidate important artists in the collection as well as larger themes of art from the last century. SFMOMA again broke ground in 2001 with Points of Departure, the first art museum exhibition to use handheld PDAs and touch-screen kiosks in the galleries offering rich-media content instead of the typical audio tour.  

Responding with increasing sophistication to the presence of digital media and new technologies, SFMOMA has continued to stretch the boundaries of multimedia education in recent years with its award-winning podcasts, custom content for Virgin America’s in-flight entertainment system, and Artscope (sfmoma.org/projects/artscope), an online visual browsing tool co-developed with Stamen Design in 2008 that allows users to explore 4,654 works in the museum’s collection.

Most recently, in January of 2010, SFMOMA introduced Making Sense of Modern Art Mobile™, the next generation of its award-winning interactive guide to the collection. Now delivered on elegant touch-screen devices, it lets users explore more than five hours of commentary, artist interviews, texts and images, audio and video clips, visitor responses, documentary photographs, and a wide range of other archival material on more than 150 artists and artworks—all interactive, free of charge, and delivered through an elegant and intuitive touch-screen interface..


SFMOMA welcomes more than 650,000 visitors annually, and more than 46,000 students visit each year. Since opening its South of Market building in 1995, SFMOMA has added more than 13,000 works to its collections, 95 percent of which were donated, doubling its holdings to 26,000 works. At the same time, SFMOMA’s family programs have increased five-fold, teacher training programs have increased six-fold, and gallery tours have expanded to 1,800. SFMOMA has mounted a series of exhibitions that have drawn both record attendance and critical praise, including recent exhibitions by Diane Arbus, Olafur Eliasson, Eva Hesse, Frida Kahlo, William Kentridge, Sol LeWitt, Richard Tuttle, and Jeff Wall.

Jill Lynch 415.357.4172 jilynch@sfmoma.org
Clara Hatcher Baruth 415.357.4177 chatcher@sfmoma.org
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