The Life of Art (for iPad and Web)


The Life of Art project was an innovative idea to use iPads in a heavily-trafficked museum setting as the primary interface for relating information about the objects in the exhibit.

About the iPad App

Since one concern was whether users would just keep their heads down and their eyes on the iPad, the user experience was carefully crafted to encourage—if not require—visitors to look up from the device to see what was in front of them. Each interpretative element was geared toward getting users to understand how the history, technique, function, and display of each of the four artworks could be applied to other objects in the gallery and throughout the museum.

Each of the four featured objects—a gilded 18th century upholstered chair, a candle holder weighing over 50 pounds and measuring nearly 5 foot high, a porcelain bowl mounted with gold accents, and a silver fountain—was presented in full 360 degrees, with key stops and points of interest guiding users through the curatorial interpretation of the object. Since comparison to similar objects is an important part of understanding the artwork, we used augmented reality and the iPad 2’s camera feed to allow users to place images of objects from elsewhere in the museum’s collection, or even from outside collections, side by side. Comparisons were drawn between the virtual objects and the ones right in front of the users.

We also created a version for the App Store that would allow users who couldn’t visit the museum to participate in the art interpretation exercise. This version of the app included an interface that allowed users to easily move between the four objects, and modified the augmented reality feature in consideration that the user didn’t have the comparison objects in front of them.

About the Website Version

The project also included a website version of the entire experience, built using HTML5, JavaScript, and CSS so that it would work both online and on many mobile devices.

We worked with designers at Terra Incognita to complete both the app and website versions.


CNET recently reviewed Life of Art, saying, "What's particularly noteworthy about the basic app is that while it works on any iPad at any time, visitors to the museum can use a special version of the app that adds augmented reality features that are displayed when the visitor holds one of several museum-owned iPads up in front of the items."

New and Noteworthy, App Store, February 9, 2012

Honorable Mention, American Association of Museum's MUSE Award, April 29, 2012