I went to the American Museum of Natural History today. Anna, Amy and I checked out ipod touches from the museum, and went exploring. My first reaction was that the app was good for finding you way around. There are a few ways to explore the museum. First there are tours and scavenger hunts to see the high lights of the museum. I liked this a lot; there a few things that everyone is going to want to see, especially at the AMNH, and I thought it was helpful to be guided directly to the different objects, from the blue whale to the t-rex and lucy. The problem the group had was that it didn’t tell you where the object was before you chose to go to it. There was no indication on the object page or the map (more on that later), so you couldn’t plan your trip strategically; we started crisscrossing the museum, wasting a lot of time/energy getting around. That being said, the room icons on the map did tell you what highlighted item was in that room, so that was helpful once you were in the room so you didn’t miss anything important.
Second was the mapping section. Firstly, I had major problems with my second ipod, but more on that later. With the first ipod, it worked fine. There was a digital map of the whole museum that breaks down where you are and also what is in every room. The problem in the design I feel is that the overall map doesn’t give you the name of the rooms, so you have to click on a icon to a) find out what room it is and b) whats in that room. So you have to memorize the rooms, which I felt made it difficult to navigate. I kept referencing my paper map to see what was near, so we could stop wandering. I wish that the digital map was more like the paper map, and allowed you to explore at a glance, without having to check every icon.
I did find the information that the app gave you about the exhibits to be useful. Alot in the galleries is unlabeled, or just gives a name. There was a North West Indian’s armour with chinese coins all over it, and that was a bit confusing. So we checked the app, and it explained they came from a Boston merchant (didn’t explain how they got to Washington, but anyway…). So that was informative; the bad thing was that that was the only thing in the whole room in the app! That was pretty common, only a few highlighted items were mentioned, but what they had was informative, if brief.
Now for the technical problems! First, my ipod, about 30 minutes in, alerted me that I had 20% battery left, and started dying. Then Amy and Anna’s started to die as well, which is a little insane, because we arrive at around 11:30, so we should have been among the first users of the day, so why weren’t they fully charged? It was a problem we never thought about: keeping equipment charged is very important, because it only took a hour and a half for the device to get dangerously low on power. We swung back to the desk and got replacement ipods, and they almost gave Amy one that was low again! With new ipods, we returned to the gallery, but I had a lot of technical problems with this on my second ipod. The app couldn’t find me in the museum! I didn’t feel like returning for a third ipod, so I kept it. It always said I was on the second floor, even when I was on the fourth! Because of this, the guided map directions didn’t work, and it always preset back to the front room, which I was no where near. When I eventually got back on the second floor, the problem still occurred, they just had the right floor coincidentally. If I had been by myself and didn’t have my paper map, this would have been very, very confusing!
Anyway, we took too long in AMNH to get to MoMA, so we’re going back tomorrow. Part two to come!