GLAMi nomination: Out Loud

nominated by: Desi Gonzalez, The Andy Warhol Museum, USA
institution: The Andy Warhol Museum
category: Museum-Wide Guide or Program

Out Loud is The Andy Warhol Museum’s inclusive audio guide, developed by the museum in collaboration with the Innovation Studio at Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh.

Out Loud is designed to be inclusive of museum visitors across abilities. For users who are blind or have low vision, it offers location-based content, screen reader optimization, and enlargeable text. It includes visual descriptions of Andy Warhol artworks and stories about Warhol’s life and art from scholars, curators, museum staff, and Warhol’s friends and family members, including archival audio. It also includes full audio transcripts.

The audio guide implements a smart audio player that is organized into “stories” about periods of Warhol’s life, each story containing multiple audio “chapters” related to an artwork or theme. Stories explore themes such as Warhol’s childhood, commercial work, technique, and world travels. The app also learns a user’s preferences, dynamically changing the order of the audio chapters in queue based on what each user listens to. Out Loud presents interpretive content alongside content designed for audiences with visual impairments. When using the app with screen reader technology, the visitor hears the visual description of the artwork immediately after the introduction. Using bluetooth low-energy beacons, this location-aware audio guide recognizes when a visitor is near an artwork; there is no need to enter a number into the audio guide to access an artwork’s stories.

To complement Out Loud, The Warhol also developed tactile reproductions of a selection of Warhol artworks. Tactile reproductions reimagine the contours, texture, and colors of an artwork as different relief layers, allowing all visitors to gain an understanding of Warhol’s art through senses beyond sight. Included in the audio guide are narrated guided tactile experiences that guide visitors through the work to understand its composition through touch.

At the heart of the development of Out Loud was a truly user-centered design approach. Before we created a single wireframe or wrote a line of code, we talked to user-experts with visual impairments about what constitute successful museum and technology experiences. We continually tested and iterated on the application and content design, working with our user-experts to build a museum experience that responded to their real-world needs.

Out Loud is available for free in the Apple App Store and is compatible with iPhone and iPod devices. It requires iOS 9.0 or later. Devices with Out Loud are available to borrow for free onsite, as well as headphones, neck loops, and audio splitters.