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Art Institute of Chicago Becomes First Art Museum to Offer Tours With “Indoor GPS” for Apple and Android Devices

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Wednesday, February 20th 2013
| Chicago, IL


Free App offers 50 custom tours with indoor mapping; Wi-Fi now installed throughout all museum public spaces.  

Chicago, IL February 20, 2013 - The Art Institute of Chicago is pleased to announce the launch of “Art Institute of Chicago Tours,” a free “indoor GPS” app for Apple and Android devices that presents 50 rich and varied tours of all the public spaces in the museum and its thousands of works on view. The custom tours offer information on more than 300 works of art, 50 different ways to organize a visit to the museum according to a visitor’s interests, and turn-by-turn navigation, made possible by the museum’s new complimentary and open Wi-Fi network and “indoor-GPS” software. The “Art Institute of Chicago Tours” app allows museum-goers to explore unfamiliar parts of the museum, learn more about their favorite works and artists, and plan personalized visits to the museum.

Map apps that help smart phone users get around outdoors are consistently the most popular in the app stores. Venues such as art museums have long hoped to provide a similar experience indoors, but have faced barriers from the technological limitations of satellite GPS. With its new Meridian-powered app, the Art Institute of Chicago becomes the first art museum in the world to offer visitors an “indoor GPS” app for both iPhone and Android. The Art Institute of Chicago’s app will give visitors that familiar glowingblue dot on the map, guiding them to art works, facilities such as restrooms and checkrooms, and more.

“While we treasure works of art from the past, we’re also mindful that we need to ensure that these works remain relevant and accessible in the present,” said Douglas Druick, President and Eloise W. Martin Director of the Art Institute. “Installing a Wi-Fi system throughout our museum—even the 120-year-old original Michigan Avenue building—allows us to now offer visitors an experience of the museum that is shaped around their interests. We’ve created an array of tours that will hopefully satisfy everyone—from a family in the museum for the first time to those interested in diving more deeply into specific collections to visitors who want to see works created specifically by Chicago artists. With this app and our Wi-Fi network, we’ve taken an exciting step in making it possible for our visitors to have personalized experiences at the museum.”

The complimentary app, developed by the Art Institute using Portland, Oregon–based Meridian’s indoor-GPS software, is available from the App Store for Apple devices and from Google Play for Android devices. Its 50 tours are organized into three categories: “occasions,” themes, and collections. The “occasion” tours navigate visitors through a first date, family visit, relaxing solitary time, or impressing out-of-town guests. The “occasion” tours also offer timed tours for visitors depending on how long they plan on spending at the museum—whether an hour or a full day. The themed tours organize works of art around 25 common ideas or features, including Chicago artists, children in art, fashion in art, the architecture of the museum, special frames around the museum, and self-portraits throughout the collection. And the collections section includes 15 tours of the museum’s permanent holdings by subject area, such as American folk art, contemporary art, African art, arms and armor, Renaissance and Baroque art, and Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art. (The only collections at the museum not covered by the tours are those that change frequently, such as photography, textiles, and works on paper.)

Each tour includes six to ten works of art with short texts as well as turn-by-turn directions and maps made possible by the museum’s new indoor positioning system. Additional features of the app include descriptions of and directions to current exhibitions at the museum; the ability to learn more about specific works by accessing the Art Institute’s website, complete with videos on many of the works; and directions to amenities such as restrooms and restaurants. Tours will be periodically added to the app, leading to a library of options for visitors every time they come to the museum. While the turn-by-turn navigation works best at the museum, the app also allows users to “tour” the Art Institute from an El platform, living room, or line at the grocery store.

The Art Institute will continue to offer the popular Acoustiguide audio tours of the museum, available at both the Michigan Avenue and Modern Wing entrances and outside certain special exhibitions. With the audio tours and the new wi-fi tours app, the works of art at one of the world’s greatest museums have become even more accessible—at the fingertips of visitors both inside and outside of the Art Institute.

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Web: http://www.artinstituteofchicago.org 
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City of Chicago residents with Chicago Public Library cards can borrow a "Museum Passport" card from any library branch for complimentary general admission to the nine members of Museums in the Park, including the Art Institute of Chicago.

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