Professor, staff, students launch Block Museum iPad app

Apple iPad users can now download the free Mary and Leigh Block Museum application. The app was created through a collaboration between the museum, Medill faculty and students. 

“I think it’s an excellent opportunity for Northwestern students to get involved in the Block Museum and to see more things that address their need at the museum,” Assistant Professor Susan Mango Curtis said of the app.

The collaboration between Medill and the Block museum to create an iPad app began the previous school year when Curtis’ News Graphic and Design graduate class developed two prototype apps for the museum.

Curtis worked with the app’s lead designer, Alexis Sanchez (BSJ13), and Ian Robinson (BSJ15) to establish the design and content of the app, which was based on the two prototypes. Medill Teaching Technologies Specialist Ryan Dietz was the head videographer for the application. 

The app emerged from the museum’s desire to engage students more, holding contests and events to get students to be more involved. 

“We’ve been looking for ways to connect with younger audiences, and we’re seeing more and more that the traditional methods we’ve used in the past -- print media, broadcast media and, even nowadays, email and the Internet -- aren’t necessarily reaching a lot of younger folks,” said Burke Patten, communications manager for the Block Museum. “We’re a university museum. We’re here for students. We’re here for student engagement.”

Currently, the museum is inviting students to submit photos of sculptures they create out of materials they find. The top five submissions will be featured on the app, and students will vote for the winner.

Effectively reaching this target audience was the focus in creating the app. A slideshow of some of the museum’s featured art, information about the artists and descriptions of upcoming showings are some examples of the app’s content.

“We focused on making it a rich, interactive environment that students would be more open to,” Curtis said. “We wanted an app where it was really easy to find things, with familiar navigation, so we used the Block Museum’s windows as part of the app and it’s on every page.”

An in-depth section of the app covers “Recital,” an exhibit by artist Terry Adkins. The section contains a playlist of songs that inspired the artwork, background information on Adkins and a video interview with Adkins conducted by Sanchez.

“The Terry Adkins page is just phenomenal,” Sanchez said. “You have all sorts of information about him and it’s really easy to get to know the kind of guy he is based on what is in that article.” 

Additionally, users can listen to an audio tour by Sophie Jenkins (WCAS13). Jenkins is an undergraduate fellow at the museum.

The app will continue to be updated each quarter with new content to reflect new exhibits at the museum. After Sanchez graduates, Robinson will take over as lead designer.