Inspiring curiosity at the Getty

J. Paul Getty Museum

Person holds a mobile device displaying the GettyGuide app.

The J. Paul Getty Museum (Getty) is home to an incredible art collection—with pieces spanning the ages from Renaissance to pop art—as well as Richard Meier’s cutting-edge architecture and beautiful, seasonally-changing gardens. 

For visitors, the aim is to savor every second in this inspiring setting. For the Getty, the aim is for its vast catalogue and backdrop to inspire curiosity, inform, and spark greater human understanding. Art Processors partnered with the Getty to develop a powerful set of on-the-ground tools to actively enable the institution to achieve this goal. 

Central to our long-term partnership is developing the new and improved GettyGuide, an accessible, downloadable app for iOS and Android. More convenient for users than the previous iPod iteration, GettyGuide now provides insights for the museum that are collated alongside other institutional data. This allows evidence-led decisions about content to be made. Thanks to integration with the museum’s data via APIs, tour content can be quickly updated in the simple content management system, freeing up staff to focus on content creation. 

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, development continued virtually and GettyGuide is now in full use. With a firm foundation set, this is just the start of our partnership with the Getty, with many user-centric developments in the works.


Challenge

The existing museum audio guide was only available on in-house iPods and managed across multiple systems that often didn’t talk to each other or took significant time and manual effort to update. The museum was assessing what their visitors wanted in a guide, and needed a partner who could work with them through the decision-making processes.

Making change happen in a renowned institution and across multiple sites depends on building trusted relationships across numerous teams. The deep partnership we have developed with the Getty means we can overcome anything and continue to innovate.

When the pandemic hit, we quickly pivoted. Even when the museum was forced to close, testing and iterating continued virtually, through building remote access to test onsite features.

Man wearing a hat, mask and earphones and holding a mobile device looks at a bust inside the J. Paul Getty Museum.
Screenshot of the GettyGuide application
Screenshot of the GettyGuide application
Screenshot of the GettyGuide application
Screenshot of the GettyGuide application

Approach

Being evidence-led is fundamental to the Getty culture. That is why producing actionable data is central to the new guide. It is also why we are taking a long-term and iterative approach, working with the museum to implement phased improvements. Regular user testing looks at everything from overall visitor satisfaction to the innovative features in development, and is combined with analytic data to make decisions.

The first year of the partnership starting in 2019 focused on getting the foundations right – enabling evidence-led decision-making and helping visitors. Now in year two of at least a three-year journey, we are rolling out a number of further features. Improving wayfinding around the multi-campus, multi-building site is a key goal. Soon, heatmapping of visitor activity will be a powerful addition, giving the Getty a visual analysis of where users are visiting most, and when.

Close up photo of a man's hand holding a mobile phone showing the audio guide. There is a sculpture in the background

 

“Visitors...have the opportunity to download the new Getty Guide app on their phones, either before visiting or while on site....[to] safely enhance the visitor experience, replacing shared guide devices.”

Getty Center Opening After Over Yearlong Closure,
   The Valley Post

Art Processors Producer, Nina Callaway, and the Getty's Head of Software, David Newbury, spoke about developing the API at MuseWeb 2021 in their presentation, Getting Your Data to Your Users: A Nerdy Deep Dive into APIs, ETLs, and Aggregated Databases.

 

Learn more

People walking around a gallery inside the J. Paul Getty Museum.

Solution

Our first priority was the development of an API, which we helped shape and has since been made publicly available. It means GettyGuide now integrates with TMS (The Museum System) as well as the wealth of other software the Getty has adopted. 

Next, we replaced the institution’s obsolete, handheld, iPod-based mobile guide with an easily downloadable app that anyone can use on their existing iOS or Android device. GettyGuide provides a COVID-safe and informative experience for visitors, delivering interpretive audio, video and text about key objects in the collection through thoughtful user-centred design. Visitors can choose from guided, themed audio tours or follow their own path by selecting exhibits they are curious about. 

Ensuring the experience is accessible for visitors has also been a key consideration. GettyGuide adapts to users’ existing mobile phone settings and is accessible by screen reader, voice control and switch control. 

For the museum, there are also numerous advantages to the new GettyGuide experience. Actionable data on how visitors interact with multimedia, space, exhibits, and wayfinding enables the museum to make informed decisions about current and future experiences. GettyGuide is powered by our Museum Operating System, a user-friendly CMS that allows changes made in TMS to automatically update artwork data. This saves time, freeing-up staff to focus on creating new multimedia content. 

Impact in numbers

  • 93 % GettyGuide users who believe the experience enhances the museum visit.
  • 58 % People who download GettyGuide before their visit.
  • 59 % Users who say their main motivation for using the GettyGuide is to learn more about the art.
Close up photo of a man's hand holding a mobile phone showing the audio guide. There is a sculpture in the background