Santa Barbara’s Natural History Museum has teamed up with two area tech companies to write the first ever iPhone application published by a museum as a guide for its exhibits. The application, called the SBnature.app, can be downloaded to any iPhone from the iTunes Store anywhere in the world. The new digital aid to museum-goers is available for free, thanks to the contributions by local Santa Barbara tech companies Make It Work and iTMP Technology.
The idea for an updated museum experience stemmed from a meeting between the museum’s marketing and public relations manager, Easter Moorman, and former museum employee Michael Williams. Williams now works for iTMP Technology, which specializes in iPhone applications geared toward health and fitness, but felt compelled to do something for the museum that he had enjoyed since his childhood.
“We thought it would be fun to do an app for the Natural History Museum, and all of the time it took to design and develop was a contribution to the museum,” said Williams. “When I was a kid, I always pressed the rattlesnake button.” For over 70 years, there has been a button at the museum that patrons can press to hear a rattlesnake’s rattle, but the new iPhone application will offer a whole new level of interactivity.
“In the ‘Butterflies Alive’ exhibit, people can use the application as an identification guide for the butterflies they see,” Moorman said. In addition to the identification guide, the application features high-quality photos of butterflies from the exhibit and further reading for the scholarly museum patron.
Because of the nature of the application, iPhone users can download the application for a sneak peak at the latest addition to the museum, to use as a guide while looking at the exhibits including an audio tour, and for further reading when they leave. Moorman asserts that one of the greatest strengths of the application is that you don’t have to be in the museum to use it. “Let’s say you are across the world, and you are probably not going to be in the Santa Barbara Natural History Museum in the near future. If you have the iPhone, then you can access information about the exhibits,” Moorman said. The application doesn’t only encompass aspects of the exhibit, but it also has links to the project’s sponsors, such as Rusty’s Pizza, where you can order a pizza directly from your phone while enjoying the museum’s exhibits.
Thus far, the only exhibit that is featured on the application is the museum’s latest, “Butterflies Alive,” but the team responsible for the first version has big plans for the future. “One of our long-term goals is to create exhibit guides for all other exhibits,” Moorman said. “If this makes people more interested in the exhibits, then we have achieved our goal, which is to inspire passion for the natural world.” Make it Work, and iTMP will continue working with the museum to update the application, bringing more content to its users as it becomes available.
Todd Prodanovich is an Indepedent intern.