Title:Teens use tech to talk art: Amplifying teen voice and art interpretation
Authors:Tasia Endo
Publication:MW2016: Museums and the Web 2016

It may seem impossible to imagine teens without their cell phones. According to a 2015 Pew study, 88 percent of teens have them, and 73 percent have smartphones. Tapping into teens’ extreme familiarity with mobile, the Seattle Art Museum has found a synergy at the intersection of its dual goals of increasing technology and youth voice at the museum.

Using interpretive technology is paramount for SAM’s vision “to be a great art museum for the 21st century.” With a new website in 2013, increased digital interactive experiences in the galleries, and expanded interpretive offerings on mobile, SAM constantly considers how technology can achieve the museum’s mission of connecting art to life.

In 2014, SAM invited the twenty-five visionary high-school-aged teens who comprise Teen Arts Group (TAG) to write and record their own permanent collection cell phone tours for the general public. This fall, teens will be building their own augmented reality tour for the permanent collection. With both projects, SAM is leveraging existing interpretive mobile platforms to deepen the ways that it can meet the goals of its teen programs: to cultivate the voice and leadership of diverse young people throughout the museum. The permanent collection cell phone and augmented reality tours not only have increased available interpretive content, but also have given TAG teens a lasting presence in the museum for all visitors.

This paper would discuss the alignment of SAM’s strategies for technology and youth engagement; data from the two project years; impact on the institution, teens, and audience; lessons learned; and takeaways applicable to any museum.