In late March, the IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts' Senior Manager of Museum Education Winoka Yepa (Diné) helped launch a virtual tour of the institution's Indigenous Futurisms exhibit. Using the ArtSteps app, phone and tablet users could virtually traverse the show in a a fully rendered 3D version of the actual exhibit environment, stopping at pieces to get the full story with a simple click and engaging in an experience far more immersive than an Instagram story or Facebook post.
As of Dec. 11, Yepa's at it again, expanding the museum's digital presence even further with the launch of the MoCNA app, an online portal through which users can engage with the entirety of the museum's current exhibitions rather than its main offering alone.
"I worked with an organization called Cuseum, and they're basically this mobile app development company that works specifically with museums," Yepa tells SFR. "They created the skeleton of the app, and I spent three or four months embedding all the content like photos, the texts, the videos."
Yepa says the first step was to capture the highest quality images of the currently installed shows. For best results, she brought in photographer Tira Howard in October, who spent months cataloguing every piece in the building. A cursory tour through the MoCNA app easily illustrates Howard's commitment to craft.
Exhibits are broken down within the "Tours" section of the app. Once inside, users can tell the tech whether they're physically at the museum or logging in from afar. Depending on the selection, MoCNA might present pieces in the same order in which they hang, but the user can choose to swipe and click around at their leisure. The app even has a "scan" function that allows visitors to the actual museum can simply grab a quick shot of any piece about which they're curious, which then opens up information on their device.
Yepa says she envisions more videos, more audio tours, potential artist talks and even a catalog of lectures, speeches, workshops and so on. This is, she says, really just the beginning.
"[A companion app] is something that MoCNA has never really done before," Yepa explains. "It's something I had experience with in the past because I developed a mobile app for the Navajo language—it was called SAAD and is no longer available—and I also know how effective they are, how amazing they are, especially during these times when people can't travel to the museum. Why not include everything?"
Yepa's language experience should come in handy for the future of the app as well. She's currently working on converting it to Spanish, a feature offered by Cuseum, and says she'd next like to add the Navajo language. If all goes well, she says, other Indigenous languages could be added in the future, as will quick links for things like becoming a museum member or donating to the museum or its parent institution, the Institute of American Indian Arts.
"My goal is, I'm well-versed in a lot of this, why not use my skills?" Yepa notes. "I always like to offer the slogan that 'Indigenous art is contemporary.' A lot of people think it's just pottery or sand painting or whatever, but we're doing things that are moving forward, that are futuristic that…aren't even thought of yet. This app is perfect for our museum."