On June 23, 2017, the Musée d’Arts de Nantes reopened after an 88+ million Euros, six-year long renovation. The beautiful main building was renovated and expanded. A new building, the Cube, was dedicated to contemporary art, and a large inner space was opened for public exhibits. In addition, digital technologies were deployed throughout the museum to make it all accessible, creating unforgettable new experiences for all visitors.
Created in 1801 as a provincial museum, the Fine Arts Museum of Nantes, now named Musée d’Arts de Nantes, is the largest and most important institution in France’s Loire region. Its collections contain works from all major French and European art movements, placing them among the largest public collections alongside the six largest notable Museums of Fine Arts: those of Grenoble, Lille, Lyon, Montpellier and Rouen.
The physical renovation was commissioned to the British architectural firm Stanton Williams, and the digital implementation was entrusted to the French digital agency Mazedia. The results were stunning.
Stanton Williams delivered a magnificent new and expanded physical space, transforming the 19th century complex into an “urban quarter” that encompasses the original building (“le palais”), the chapel (“l’oratoire”), the garden area now open for exhibits, and a new building. the Cube, destined to house contemporary art. Exhibit space was enlarged by almost a third, enabling 900 new pieces of the 13,000 collection to be available for visitors.
The digital transformation was equally remarkable. Mazedia deployed Wezit, a transmedia storytelling platform for implementing interactive programs at cultural institutions using multiple media formats. At Nantes three Wezit-enabled attractions were deployed: the Ma Visite mobile app for visitors’ smartphones and tablets, interactive kiosks and the “Under the magnifying glass” stations.
There were twin objectives for the digital transformation: enabling the content curation desired by the museum and creating a superb visitor experience.
Curation enabled presenting the content so as to highlight the artwork as conceived by museum curators.
Visitor experience required additional work: a key requirement was for visitors to either be able to create their own tour and operate autonomously, or to take advantage of the predefined tours designed around specific topics.
Since the renovated museum complex is quite large, passageways have been created between buildings that were formerly not present, and some spaces are now used differently than they were before the renovation. As a result, one of the museum’s big challenges was helping visitors find their way easily inside the new, larger space. Location-awareness, both of artwork and for visitors, became a key concern to address. Indoor location helped tackle these problems.
Ma Visite mobile app
Ma Visite (“My visit”) is an app available for both iOS and Android devices. It provides access to key information and functions:
- the list of all curated museum tours, which encompass the museum’s collections, its architecture, works grouped by time period, or tours such as “looking for love” and the “literary tour”
- tours for families
- the “must-see” exhibits
- the ability for visitors to build custom tours based on their personal interests, and this is possible to do even before reaching the museum grounds
- special event announcements
- indoor navigation, for visitors to find their way throughout this vast physical space.
Especially notable are the “must-see” exhibits (“Oeuvres incountournables“), the masterpieces that set this museum apart. Here is a peek at the user’s experience:
The museum is large, spanning multiple levels over different buildings.
Complementing the Ma Visite app, the kiosks give visitors the ability to instantly find their location, and search for exhibits of their interest with the convenience of a larger screen.
All artifacts can be found through these kiosks. This way visitors can learn how to locate the specific artworks they wish to see.
“Under the magnifying glass” stations
Strategically placed in front of the major exhibits, these stations give visitors the ability to explore notable artwork in detail.
The stations provide the “magnifying glass” (“Œuvre à la loupe”) that enables visitors to delve deeper into the artist, history and significance of these exhibits.
Interestingly, young visitors, accompanied by their parents, are instantly fascinated by these digital devices, rapidly mastering the ability to learn through them.
Behind the scenes
What made the digital magic possible? Here is how it happened.
Mazedia created the graphics and designed interfaces for the various devices: the website, the mobile app, the kiosks, and the “magnifying glass” stations. All of them are linked to Wezit, the transmedia platform that enables structuring and personalizing the digital content published across devices. Visitors, in particular, may use a variety of devices, such as smartphones, tablets, kiosks or the website portal. Also, Wezit enables museum curators and administrators to manage the digital content.
A key element of the information displayed to visitors is their location and the location of the artwork they may see during their visit. Artwork location is displayed as part of search results.
Technically, there are two different ways of providing location. One is using proximity, as in “I’m standing near ‘Le Déluge’ exhibit”. There is also use for actual geographic coordinates. For instance: “I’m on the 2nd floor, in the 3rd gallery, near the center of the room”. This second version delivers coordinates: latitude, longitude and level.
iBeacons were deployed throughout the museum to provide location. These Bluetooth beacons deliver both proximity to specific spots, as the standard iBeacon functionality delivers, as well as indoor location using Accuware’s Indoor Navigation product, which first maps the location of each and every iBeacon, and then delivers coordinates to mobile apps based on the user’s real time location.
With location functionality firmly embedded in Ma Visite, visitors were able to pinpoint their current location and get guidance to locate and see any artwork of their choosing, combining autonomy and flexibility for a great experience.
Early feedback from digital infrastructure users has been very positive. Children, in particular, were wildly enthusiastic in their embrace of new technology, which instantly multiplied their interest in exploring and learning. And that is music to the ears of all those who contributed to this remarkable transformation.