The National Gallery

Wayfinding for one of the greatest collections of Western European art in the world

The National Gallery is one of the most visited museums in the world and contains over 2300 paintings including many famous works, such as van Eyck’s Arnolfini Portrait, Velázquez’s Rokeby Venus, Turner’s Fighting Temeraire and Van Gogh’s Sunflowers. The gallery represents all major traditions of Western European painting from the artists of late medieval and Renaissance Italy to the French Impressionists.

After a long period of using traditional audio-guide hardware, Smartify was asked to work with The National Gallery to deliver a more flexible guide to visitors' own devices. Crucially, the Gallery wanted to support social distancing; be able to create and publish their own audio, video and text; and to integrate revenue generating services such as retail and donations as well as capturing audience data.

The challenge

As Smartify partners since 2016, the biggest challenge in the Post-COVID19 world was how the National Gallery could facilitate social distancing while driving as much revenue as possible from visitors. To meet this challenge required not only a mobile guide that could be delivered to visitor’s own phones, but an elegant and easy-to-use UX design to build confidence in visitors throughout the visitor journey.

Our solution

Drawing on our team’s technical and design expertise we connected the Smartify database to the Gallery’s collection online to automatically pick up artwork descriptions, audio files and Youtube videos. The Gallery utilised Smartify’s award-winning AI image-recognition technology to allow visitors to scan and identify artworks - reading artwork labels on their own smartphone rather than leaning in towards physical labels. In addition to providing a seamless tour, Smartify connected our in-app analytics on visitor engagement directly to the National Gallery’s internal analytics monitoring platform to ensure that they had a clear oversight on usage, pinch points, engagement and demographics of those using the tool. From there we were able to add a donation prompt and e-commerce retail offer to ask the visitor for a contribution or purchase at the moment they were most engaged.

The results

Advertised to visitors at the start of their visitor journey, our Smartify guide has already become an integral part of the visitor experience. It has received high praise online including app store reviews and TripAdvisor.

Chris Michael, Digital Director at the National Gallery comments: “We believe mobile holds the key to unlocking new kinds of visitor experience, which bring together the power of encountering great works of art face to face, with access to the rich storytelling and knowledge digital can deliver. Smartify does that, and does it brilliantly, and we look forward to serving our audiences together.”

As with all our project partners, our work with National Gallery has created new learnings as well as product features that we are able to share with all partners using Smartify. In particular we were pleased to work on donations, wayfinding, AR experiences and e-commerce.

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