Monday, September 29, 2008

SIIA in Paris II
While in Paris I was able to spend the better part of a Sunday wandering around the Louvre. I paid for one of those dorky headsets with an oversized Palm Pilot-like device swinging around my neck. Some of the content on the device was quite good -- the Masterpieces of the Louvre tour took you around to three of the museums signature pieces like the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo and the Winged Victory of Samothrace. That tour provided step by step instructions on how to maneuver around the museum and through the crowds. I was pretty impressed at this point and thought that Korean Air had scored a great coup by locking up the sponsorship of these devices for 1 million euros.

Imagine my disappointment when I found that the other tours were lacking in that level of detail. They only provided crude maps to direct you to the next piece of art. In some cases the art had been moved! It seemed that the museum had put all their effort into their A-List products and had skimped on the other less popular offerings. I'll grant the Louvre that keeping those devices updated in a whole bunch of languages must take a lot of work, but they should be consistent in the quality of their offerings. No one wants to see a bunch of tourists walking around in circles wearing those dorky headsets.

The other downside of the experience was realizing that the device offered no geospatial information. There was no "Where the hell am I" button which really comes in handy at a museum of this size. Moreover, most of the artwork had no information besides the little cards stuck to the wall - all written in French. BlueTooth enabled sets would be pretty handy that could broadcast when you get close or punch in a number on the screen.

All in all, the Louvre was a fascinating museum, however as an information provider they could do a lot more. They should also be considerate of their sponsors who pay to have their name on these products.


Nancy said...

One question - was Korean one of the language choices for the tour, given the sponsor?

And one observation - language-wise, the French are among the most protective of their native tongue. Seems to me there's a bit of a national mindset that would rebel against putting English language signs all over the Louvre (or Chinese, which would probably pay off better these days.)

Ed Keating said...

According to the press release one of the reasons why they sponsored the device was because so many Koreans were visiting the museum.

As for signs, I'd expect them to stay in French, I'd just like technology that would beam an English, Korean or Farsi version to my airline-issuued hand held.