“Celebrate Pride Month! Our team of friendly experts guide you on a tour of LGBTQ+ artists and themes throughout the Museum via text message, chatting with you in real time as you explore.”
This was the message on palm cards that our ASK Ambassadors distributed to Museum visitors throughout June. As a special engagement activity for Pride Month, visitors could take an ASK-guided tour of our galleries and learn more about gender and queer identity in art.
This tour could be taken as a complementary activity to the special exhibition Nobody Promised You Tomorrow: Art 50 Years After Stonewall or as a standalone activity. And, as with all our ASK engagement offerings, we kept things responsive and personalized —every visitor could set their own pace and tone.
As we envisioned it, this app-guided tour would include a few very popular works from our collections (like Kehinde Wiley’s Napoleon Crossing the Alps) as well as some lesser-known works. They could be works by artists who identified as LGBTQ+, portraits of LGBTQ+ individuals, or works that touched on broader themes of gender identity.
The ASK Team collaborated to select ten works of art with a range of dates and media, from Donald Moffett’s Lot 043017 (Multiflora, Radiant Blue) to a coffin in the Ancient Egyptian collection, from Aaron Ben-Shmuel’s stone bust of Walt Whitman to Deborah Kass’s neon wall-piece After Louise Bourgeois. They compiled information about these works into a reference document and they strategized about giving directions to help the visitor navigate from stop to stop.
Elizabeth of the ASK Team tracked these tours (which accounted for about 22% of our app traffic) throughout June , and she noticed an interesting split. Visitors who began engaging with us on the Museum’s first floor were more likely to invest in the total tour experience, following our cues to visit works on the third, fourth, and fifth floors of the Museum. They often spent more than a half-hour with us for this itinerary.
Meanwhile, other visitors encountered individual works with our ASK Pride Month labels in the galleries and sent questions about them. These visitors were usually satisfied with learning about that particular work and might move one more stop nearby when we invited them to continue chatting. However, they were less interested in experiencing the complete tour.
The ASK Team also received a few requests from visitors who were ready to go even further. For example, when one visitor asked whether they could see anything by LGBTQ+ artists in the new special exhibition Rembrandt to Picasso: Five Centuries of European Works on Paper, we added a drawing by Rosa Bonheur to our list.
It’s been two years since we first tailored an ASK activity to a specific show or event, during Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern, and we continue to learn from each iteration. Next up? An engagement option related to the special exhibition Pierre Cardin: Future Fashion. More about that soon!
Jessica Murphy, Manager of Visitor Engagement, joined the Brooklyn Museum in 2015 as a member of the ASK team. In her current position she leads the team in their interactions with the Museum’s visitors through the ASK app and coordinates their ongoing training and development. Jessica received her B.A. from Fordham University and her M.A. and Ph.D. in Art History (with a concentration in American Art) from the University of Delaware. She previously worked as Research Associate at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (contributing to exhibitions and publication such as “Alfred Stieglitz and His Artists: Matisse to O’Keeffe” and “The American West in Bronze”), as Contractual Educator at the Met, and as Curatorial Assistant at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. She has also worked as a freelance writer on cultural topics. She welcomes any opportunity, in any medium, to connect people and art.