Guest Post: Isaha Cook on The Infinite Museum

“Where can’t an English major take you?”

This is a question that many English graduates have been hard pressed to answer, considering how versatile the degree really is. Last year, senior Amory Orchard’s journey with three other English majors took her to a special experience at the Virginia Ball Center, where she and her team joined their skills to help create The Infinite Museum app. Now, you might be asking: how could the English major be useful in the creation of a web based application? The ability to write and work within a team setting represents just two of the many skills that English majors develop and learn to use in their future careers.

So what problem was Amory’s team trying to address for the VBC? A general pitfall for most museums stems from the overall feeling that you can see all there is to see in a day or two of browsing. The experiences that many museums offer to visitors can grow stale quickly, despite the various special exhibits that can enter the rotation from time to time. For those concerned over how best to address this issue, an answer has been a long time coming. Amory and the team’s answer to the question comes in the form of The Infinite Museum, an interactive app that provides numerous prompts and information about the pieces within the museum

Amory discussed some of the things she and her English major cohorts were able to bring to the table, as well as take away10712734_732239086849969_3715995415968922610_n from the experience:

“I guess I was worried because I would have to work on designing an app. There were a lot of TCOM and COMM majors, but I’d never even published a blog post before! When they were designing prototypes, I edited the web content. To make an app, there need to be people who can design and those who can write. I eventually became lead editor and also learned about design.

We wanted to stand out and give the world something different. The second week of the semester, we created and tested tours each of us had made. Some of the best tours were completely crazy like English major Cooper Cox’s ‘Feet in the Museum,’ which made the museum visitors notice all the artworks’ feet. I think his tour captured the essence of what we were trying to do the whole time: to make looking at art transformative yet relatable.”

Users of the The Infinite Museum are offered more than fifteen hundred prompts that can send them to every area available in the museum to explore and experience in exciting new ways. For instance, the app might ask the viewer to decide what subjects of a painting were thinking in the scene, or how a certain technique used in the creation of the piece might be applied to other forms of art.

The app also provides users a level of customization and interaction with other users. Through their login feature, a user can post their thoughts or responses to certain prompts to the app to be viewed by other users, or vice versa. Users are also encouraged to favorite prompts they like best (like on Twitter), share prompts via social media sites, and explore favorite prompts of other users.

Another feature of the app is the map that is provided with each prompt. With a simple click, users can follow the map to the piece of art that each prompt is referencing, offering them the chance to cut down the time they need to hunt for that work of art. This fact also means that the user will have more time to interact with the prompt that led them to the piece in the first place.

Museum visitors are encouraged to utilize the app on pretty much any device since it is web based. After visiting the link, a user can save the link to the home-screen of their chosen device, and immediately have access to all the prompts The Infinite Museum has to offer. This quick and easy form of access is extremely efficient for involving a wide audience of museum visitors. Users can navigate the app by using just a few buttons, and each feature is clear and responsive considering how many pieces of art and prompts are being dealt with. Considering the whole experience, I believe The Infinite Museum has the ability to appeal to a wide range of students, not just in the Art or English departments.

If an English major could help produce such a great application, the answer to “Where can’t an English major take you?” retains its small mystery. Check out all of Amory and her team’s hard work at http://theinfinitemuseum.com/. And if you’re an English major seeking to show off your skills just take this final encouraging word from Amory:

“Go for it. Seriously. Immersive learning projects are like real jobs and will force you to learn how to work with others, no matter what your future career will be.”

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