institution: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
category: Exhibition Media or Experience
When a new, expanded SFMOMA opened in May 2016, it unveiled a suite of drop-in, gallery-adjacent interpretive spaces that provide illuminating stories and rich media content designed for the curious museum goer. After exploring the second floor Painting and Sculpture collection galleries, visitors will encounter one final space—an inviting, living room-like interpretive gallery. Outfitted with pendant lights, bookshelves, reading material, device charging stations, and comfortable seating, this space offers an inviting atmosphere and an opportunity to pause and reflect. Prominently featured is the Touch Wall: an interactive experience accessed through a twelve foot wide array of LCD touch panels.
The Touch Wall catches the attention of visitors with big, arresting images and quotes, and encourages interaction by cycling slowly through content. Users can browse a variety of brief and illuminating multimedia stories about key artworks in nearby galleries.
The Touch Wall is divided into three distinct stations, each scaled for one to two users, and each displaying a different visual story. Step in front of any station, and it responds visibly by revealing a menu of available stories. If no one approaches within a few feet, the stations will each cycle through stories, revealing one element at a time. In this way the Touch Wall provides distinct modes of engagement, one for the visitor who chooses to watch at some remove, another for a hands-on experience.
Three kinds of stories are offered: Artists at Work, Artworks Up Close, and Themes.
Artists at Work stories provide glimpses into the practices of the people behind iconic works in the collection. Each story consists of a selection of images—and an occasional video—showing an artist engaged in their creative process, with quotes from the artist to reveal insights into their methods and approaches.
In Artworks Up Close, users touch highlighted details of a painting or sculpture to reveal commentary about those details. One can also explore the artwork by panning and zooming in on a spectacularly high-resolution image, seeing the work more closely than would be possible in the gallery.
Themes bring together disparate artworks featured in different galleries to tease out unexpected connections across the collection—for instance, the role of found materials in sculptures and paintings.
Touch Wall stories are conceived to support brief, on-your-feet inquiries, one to two minutes per story. These quick bites are complemented by the adjacent Touch Tables, which provide deeper dives of five to ten-minute experiences, or longer.
Seductive as these luminous screens are, the Touch Wall and Touch Table are also equipped with an eyes-free accessible mode for blind and low vision visitors. When activated by the touch of a button, they provide audio navigation instructions and verbal descriptions of all the stories and images depicted onscreen.