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Fancy a Rembrandt in the bathroom or an Egyptian temple in the backyard? The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s latest augmented reality (AR) initiative encourages mobile visitors to dream, offering a chance to “unframe” nearly 50 of its masterpieces and practice a spot of virtual interior decorating. 

Created in partnership with Verizon, The Met Unframed compresses the cavernous museum and its vast collection into more than dozen digitally recreated galleries that virtual visitors explore with a finger’s flick and pinch. Powered by Verizon 5G Ultra Wideband, it can be accessed by any 4G or 5G smart device and will be available for free until mid-February. 

How it works

The Metropolitan Museum of Art AR

The experience is dotted with challenges that offer clues to unlock and “loan” AR versions of artworks.

Virtual visitors scan a QR code and land in The Great Hall. Tapping highlighted arrows allows movement through the hall and hanging banners offer a choice between Home, Journey, Nature, and Power galleries (a map in the bottom right corner makes navigation easy).  

Enter a gallery and select an artwork with a highlighted magnifying glass icon. Read about the background and listen to an expert discuss its significance. Tap “Unframe AR-t” and pass a series of challenges — such as accurately placing hieroglyphs on the The Temper of Dendur or finding hidden numbers in Emanuel Leutze’s “Washington Crossing the Delaware” — to take the work “on loan” via AR for 15 minutes. 

What the Met says

The Met Unframed brings the Museum to audiences wherever they are in an innovative viewing experience in which users can virtually visit iconic spaces and engage with The Met’s masterpieces, learn more about the works in a playful way through AR, and enjoy bringing the art into one’s own surroundings.” — Max Hollein, Director of The Metropolitan Museum of Art

What Verizon says

The Met Unframed enhances digital inclusivity for an audience that may have never experienced art in such a personal way. We’re utilizing the power of technology and enhancements enabled by Verizon 5G to provide extensive access, in-depth education, and opportunities for interactivity and sharing, for beloved works of art from one of the world’s most renowned museums.” Andrew McKechnie, Chief Creative Officer at Verizon

Virtual installation views of the Nature Gallery (above) and Home Gallery (below). Images: The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Verizon

The JCC Angle

Collaborations between U.S. museums and technology companies are very much in vogue — the Brooklyn Museum hosted a virtual exhibition with Netflix’s The Queen’s Gambit and Los Angeles County Museum of Art is partnering with Snapchat on an AR exhibition. 

These partnerships generate much-needed revenue during a period of limited onsite visitation and ticket sales. Successful digital initiatives do more than merely replicate in-person tours and in this regard, The Met Unframed excels. The experience is easy to navigate, supplemental information about artworks is concise and accessible, and the gamified element encourages the virtual visitors to inspect and think carefully about the works of art. The lack of a desktop web browser option and inability to tilt to landscape mode, however, are limitations. 

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