American Natural History Museum Explorer App

Art, Museums, and Augmented Reality

Featured image from Emon Hassan, The New York Times

Dale Boon from Tyler, Tex., using the Explorer app at the American Museum of Natural History.


Artists are always at the forefront of creativity. That’s why when the art community innovates, marketers should take note. For example, artists and museums are adopting the use of augmented reality (AR) technology in promoting their artwork and exhibits. The use of AR allows for a wider audience to reach the content much more easily. With apps and special events, creators and exhibitors have captured audiences globally. AR has allowed them to forge a new way to interact with their audiences.


Examples of AR(t)

Ivan Doth Depeña introduced the app, Lapse, in 2016. “Lapse is an experiential, augmented reality installation…that takes you on a journey throughout Miami” (Lapse Miami). Depeña’s “scavenger hunt” app lets users see art in everyday life. Several markers were scattered throughout Miami. Each marker projected an image onto the user’s device. The images were manipulated to create a piece of artwork based on the natural surroundings.


“We’re reaching the point where technological advances are catching up with our imaginations” (Ivan Doth Depeña, Artsy).


The use of AR works because it embraces current technology trends. This is a way of connecting with their audiences from a different angle. It involves the use of mobile devices, which are a cornerstone of modern technology. In the age of smartphones, apps make up 89 percent of the time mobile users spend on their devices. Developing apps makes sense based on the significant percentage of mobile usage.


The Gettysburg National Military Park has recently hired a new artist in residence. What makes this so exciting? The new artist “paints” with mixed reality technology. The artist, Lathan Mastellar, will be creating art at the park from February 2017 to March 2017. He is using AR to create interactive and experiential art for the park museum.


Now, what’s the point of all of this innovation? AR and Virtual Reality garners excitement. Visitors get to interact with another layer of an  already rich environment. That creates a memorable experience.


AR in Museums

The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History developed Skin & Bones. The app animates bones in the Bone Hall. It gives users a unique experience at the museum that engages them in a new, exciting way.


“Watch a vampire bat skeleton pull itself off the mount and run away, or an extinct Steller’s Sea Cow materialize in the flesh” (Smithsonian).


In 2016, the American Museum of Natural History created an app called Explorer.



Explorer enhances a user’s experience at the New York museum and gives them a more in depth perspective. The user can use the app to create their own tour through the museum or buy their tickets. The app even features the AR experience “Be the Bear.” It lets users “interact with iconic exhibits like never before” (AMNH).


These AR experiences are important in museums, where there is a general “No Touch” policy.  But, AR brings the experience to to the visitor. It has made art and museum exhibits more accessible to audiences. Users are able to access the information more remotely, rather than reading all of the plaques at the museum, or even going to the museum. Users may be more likely to consume the content because the information is so easy to get.


How Does AR Work as a Marketing Strategy?

AR works as a marketing strategy because it is so rooted in finding more ways for users to access the content. Mobile apps give viewers the ability to experience the art in a more meaningful and experiential way.


More simply, AR accommodates the audience. And, the effort is well worth it.

katie murray marketing and video production internKatie Murray is a Marketing Intern for Green Buzz Agency. She reports on the latest trends in Video Production and Video Marketing. She can’t wait to test out the Explorer app at the American Natural History Museum.

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