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Dinosaurs: The American Museum of Natural History App

Posted by Nancy Proctor on | February 9, 2010 | 3 Comments

I was excited to see a tweet from Laura Mann about the American Museum of Natural History‘s new app in the iTunes store: Dinosaurs. At under 50mb, I was able to download it without deleting anything off my iPhone. But the handy size and simple, three-button navigation interface, does not mean the app skimps on content!

The ‘home page’ and one of the three navigation links is a mosaic of a dinosaur head, composed of photos from the Dinosaur collection at AMNH. Zoom in (via multitouch or double-tapping) to see each photo on its own with tombstone info, a short description and social media functions: you can comment on each photo or send it to a friend. Finally! A museum app that feels like it was made for an iPhone, rather than being an illustrated translation of a traditional audio tour (see Koven Smith on this problem with multimedia tours).

Turning the iPhone horizontally enlarges the image to fill the screen. The responses of the mosaic interface could be tweaked a bit: I sometimes had trouble zooming into the photo I wanted – it would give me the adjacent photo instead. And to get back to the right one, I had to go all the way back to the full overview and zoom back in again; it could take some panning around to find the photo I wanted again amongst so many.

The second interface button gives access to six ‘Stories’: illustrated text pages about each major dinosaur type with histories of their excavation and the people who brought them to the Museum. No video or fancy interactives, but there’s something for everyone in the information available: from history buffs to scientists to those who just like to look at dinosaur pics, you can easily hone in on the pages of interest to you and skip the rest. Move through the pages by swiping left and right. To go back to the story menu, tap on the page to get a ‘back’ button to appear at the top of the screen.

The ‘About’ section (the third interface button) says four more stories will come soon. It also gives us instructions on using the tour, a bibliography, and bios of the developers and Dr. Lowell Dingus who is, presumably, the curator of the content in the app.

The app is free from iTunes and was developed by AMNH with Mosaic Legends and 33Delivered. I was kind of surprised that the link to Mosaic Legends from the app doesn’t take us to an iPhone or mobile-ready site; in fact, the first link I clicked, to one of their other iPhone apps (which seem to be two Grateful Dead and a Ziggy Stardust app), took me to a Flash demo I couldn’t see on the iPhone!

Overall a nice little app, and a good illustration of the kind of bite-sized, straight-to-product approach that Koven Smith has advocated. I also like that it works without lots of fancy video or interactive content, so suggests that this quality of mobile content is more easily within the means of museums to produce in-house.

Comments

3 Responses to “Dinosaurs: The American Museum of Natural History App”

  1. Robin White Owen
    February 11th, 2010 @ 2:24 pm

    The content is engrossing, and as you wrote, there is something for the history buff, the scientist and the dino lover. One thing I’d like to see is a way to keep track of which of the hundreds of images in the mosaic I’ve already looked at/read about. Another thing,this morning I was in mid sentence about a dinosaur but had to shut down when I got to work. It would be helpful if, when I reopened the app, it remembered where I was and what I had been reading.

  2. Robin White Owen
    March 5th, 2010 @ 8:08 pm

    Just wanted to amend my comment since the app does keep your place if you’re in one of the stories. And, the stories are really good!

  3. SALEMA MAHAJAN
    March 13th, 2010 @ 12:44 am

    THESE APPS ARE THE GREATEST ,NOW IF YOU CAN ADD MORE TO THE DINOSAURS AS WELL AS DO OTHER SUBJECTS ,LIKE MAMMALS ,OCEANS ETC ,THANK YOU SO MUCH LOVE THIS APP. MAKE MORE FANTASTIC AND FUN LOVE IT.

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