The Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery (Freer|Sackler) collaborated with experiential designers Art Processors to create Freer Thinking, an audio app with a focus on accessibility. Released in October 2017, the app has won an honorable mention in the mobile applications category of the 2018 MUSE awards, presented by the American Alliance of Museums’ (AAM) international Media & Technology Professional Network.

Along with Art Processors, the Freer|Sackler collaborated closely with the Smithsonian Office of Accessibility on the app. Freer Thinking is now the Smithsonian’s most universally accessible app for people with disabilities.

“Accessible design practices not only extend our audience reach, they lay the foundation for deeper relationships to art through intuitive technology. We see the app as a way to welcome and engage all our visitors,” said Courtney O’Callaghan, Chief Digital Officer at the Freer|Sackler. “We plan to build on this user-centered foundation and hope to see it applied in other institutions.”

Freer Thinking is a location-based audio app that offers visitors two ways to experience the museums’ collections. Art Processors designed the iOS app with accessibility in mind. For example, transcripts of the audio tours are available in the app for hearing-impaired visitors.

Art Processors, Inc., CEO Scott Brewer had the following to say about the accessibility work and Smithsonian partnership: “It was clear from the earliest workshops that creating an experience that was accessible to as large an audience as possible was of primary importance for the Freer|Sackler.

“We work through all of our projects with universal design patterns in mind, and we took those to heart in our collaboration with the Smithsonian and the design of this work,” Brewer added. “Their support with language translation, user expert groups and testing were hugely influential in the successful launch of Freer Thinking, and we feel privileged to have had such a wonderful partner to work with.”

The 2018 MUSE awards ceremony was held on Sunday, May 6, during the AAM Annual Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona. MUSE awards recognize outstanding achievement in Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums (GLAM) media. Each year, MUSE awards are presented to institutions or independent producers that use digital media to enhance the GLAM experience and engage audiences. MUSE awards celebrate scholarship, community, innovation, creativity, education and inclusiveness.

About the Freer|Sackler

The Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery of Art and the adjacent Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, located on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., together comprise the nation’s museums of Asian art. It contains one of the most important collections of Asian art in the world, featuring more than 40,000 objects ranging in time from the Neolithic to the present day, with especially fine groupings of Islamic art, Chinese jades, bronzes and paintings and the art of the ancient Near East. The Freer|Sackler also contains important masterworks from Japan, ancient Egypt, South and Southeast Asia and Korea, as well as the Freer’s noted collection of works by American artist James McNeill Whistler.

The Freer|Sackler is part of the Smithsonian Institution, the world’s largest museum, education and research complex, which is dedicated to the increase and diffusion of knowledge.

About Art Processors

Art Processors are digital experience and software development experts. Art Processors invented the first mobile interpretive solution designed to replace traditional wall labels and signage: The O. The locative platform at MONA in Hobart, Tasmania allows visitors to create inspiring exhibitions free from the limitations imposed by traditional interpretive approaches. Art Processors also pioneered Virtual Tours, enabling the visit to be extended beyond fixed opening hours. Integrated social networking features promote increased participation, and statistical reporting tools profile all aspects of visitor engagement: movement, usage, interaction, and satisfaction.