I did a few laps of the Rijksmuseum yesterday – alternating between the printed guidebook and the museum’s free app to find my way around. In my last post I focused on the analog navigation, today I’ll review the app.
The app is essentially the same as the multimedia tour (the successor of the good old audioguide), although by bringing your own device you save yourself 5 euros. As I imagine most people do, I downloaded it while on site using the museum’s free wifi. This worked fine – although the biggest problem I had with using the app was the patchiness of the wifi coverage. Some parts of the museum seemed to be wifi blackspots, meaning parts of the tour wouldn’t download. But when the wifi was working, the app was a useful and easy-to-follow guide.
The app offered a LOT of different guided tours – ranging from general ‘highlights’ tours to tours covering a specific collection or time period. Each tour also had two different versions: a shorter 45-minute version, and a longer 90-minute one.
Navigation using the app was also made very simple by a combination of navigational photographs and annotation of the same museum map used in the guidebook and in signage.
Besides the guided tours, you could also use the app to listen to audio descriptions of selected works by entering in its three-digit number. Importantly, the tours saved your progress. So if you followed a diversion while in the middle of a tour, looking up a couple of different works, you could then go back to the tour and pick up where you left off.
Audio descriptions averaged about 1 minute in duration (maybe even less). I think this was the perfect length: short and to the point, with the option to listen to further tracks with additional information if you wished. And the commentary was pitched at the right level, not assuming too much knowledge of art or Dutch history.
The app also revealed some hidden gems that would have been easily missed otherwise. These two paintings were displayed in the same gallery, although not next to each other:
Look at the woman in red to the right of the lower painting. Does she look familiar? Apparently, artists copying each other like this was not uncommon – it was a way of them showing off their comparative skill.