Museum of Modern Art

ProjectMuseum of Modern Art - "Signals: How Video Transformed the World"LocationNew York, USAArchitectAudio Visual Designer: Aaron Harrow, MoMA, USAInstallerMuseum of Modern Art Audio Visual Department, USAAcousticianSennheiser, GermanySubmitted bySennheiser

For its new exhibit, ‘Signals: How Video Transformed the World’ the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) implemented Sennheiser MobileConnect, an innovative, scalable and smartphone-based audio accessibility solution. It consists of three main components: The MobileConnect Station, the smartphone-based MobileConnect App (available for iOS and Android), and MobileConnect Manager. MobileConnect was installed so that exhibit visitors could experience the audio throughout the exhibit privately, at their own pace and with their own smartphones.

MobileConnect is used extensively throughout the exhibition (around 95 individual artworks utilise MobileConnect) to deliver real-time, streaming audio which is perfectly in synchronisation with video and film images.

MobileConnect provides not only an accessible assistive listening solution for the hard of hearing but also allows all visitors to take a deeper dive into multichannel video works without the need for cumbersome/unhygienic wired headphones.

Another significant use is to allow multiple audio works to co-exist in the same space without creating an unpleasant cacophony for the visitor.

A major challenge the team encountered was that MoMA did not have adequate IT infrastructure in the galleries. As a solution, MoMA installed an additional fibre network and switches in the space in order to accommodate the ~40 MobileConnect stations that serve the exhibition.

Another challenge was the fear that visitors might not have their own devices, or might not understand how to download and operate the MobileConnect app.

However, MoMA sourced, tested and provisioned mobile devices and headphones that would be appropriate to hand out to visitors. This included hygiene solutions for devices and headphones. Visitor Engagement staff were employed and trained in use of the system and how to best communicate its use to visitors. VE staff are on hand during all open hours to assist visitors (either with MoMA-provided devices, or with their own devices).

With over 95% of artworks which have an audio component being accessible to the hard of hearing, the use of MobileConnect in the Signals exhibition at The Museum of Modern Art marks an unprecedented implementation of Assistive Listening / Accessibility for audio works in a museum environment.

Previous technologies (e.g. induction hearing loops) have only been possible to implement in a much more restricted way for temporary exhibitions (usually only for large works with a floor-covering that could hide and protect the induction loop). Without MobileConnect, we estimate only around 15% of the audio works in this show could have been made fully accessible to the hard of hearing.

In addition to this, the MobileConnect system has been put to innovative use by allowing multiple different audio artworks to be placed in close proximity without compromising audio quality or visitor experience. This is significant not just from a logistical perspective, but also as it has allowed for new and exciting choices to be made by the Museum’s curators.

Finally, MoMA was able to use the MobileConnect app customisation feature, so that, when launched and connected to MoMA Wi-Fi, the app features the characteristics and style desired by MoMA.