Museum of Fine Arts. I'm not a huge fan of audio tours, but thought I would try out their new multimedia guide after I read about it online (and by the way, having found that information once, it now seems hard to find there).
After the recent discussion by Arianna Huffington and Nina Simon's thoughtful, impassioned rebuttal, I thought it made sense to think about this guide from a visitor's perspective. What did I want from it? What did I expect? Was it easy to use? and most importantly of all, did it deepen or change my experience? Did I bug other visitors?
I found myself not so interested in the audio, as usual for me. But two particular components I found really compelling--they drew me in and I'll remember them for a long time--I think they illustrate what these kinds of guides may be best at for visitors--or at least visitors like me.
And then there was Watson and the Shark by John Singleton Copley. One of the masterworks in the Americas wing, it had a bustling crowd around it. I sat for a minute and listened (and watched) to an African American community member (and member of the board of trustees, I think) discuss this painting on my little media player. He remembered seeing it as a young man and was struck by the authority of the black man commanding the boat--and how rare it was to see, in life or in art, an African American shown in a position of authority. I was touched by the memory--but it also caused me to look closer at the painting--to really look at that man commanding the boat.
And a quick shout-out to the MFA's member program. We were enthusiastically greeted at the door and asked if we were members and the free admission, discount parking, discount on the media guide, and discount in the restaurant made that Christmas present to my husband seem like a great thing!