Smithsonian’s Freer|Sackler Launches New Location-aware Audio Tour App

App Will Offer Multiple Audio Experiences for On-and Off-Site Listeners in Eight Languages
January 16, 2018
News Release
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To enhance visitor experiences both within and outside of its newly reopened galleries, the Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery have launched the “Freer Thinking Audio App,” a new location-based app that offers visitors two ways to experience the museums’ collections. National Public Radio’s Robert Siegel narrates a gallery-highlights tour of 60 significant objects, five of which are designed especially for kids and families. The tours on the app are available in English, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese and Spanish and will soon be available in Hindi, Korean and Persian.

The app also features four podcast-like guided tours, each a 20-minute segment on a different theme, with interviews with curators and contextual music. Visitors can enjoy the thematic guided tours either onsite or offsite via the app on their phones or as part of the Freer|Sackler’s “Freer Thinking” podcast series on iTunes. Themes for the first four episodes are “Apocalypse in the Museum,” “Mind Your Manner” (about the pleasures of the table in the ancient Arab world), “Buddhism and Psychedelic Rock” and “The Pompous Director’s Tour.” The Freer|Sackler will produce additional podcast episodes with the goal of offering as many as a total of six in 2018 and future seasons.

The “Freer Thinking Audio App” was developed in close collaboration with the Smithsonian Office of Accessibility, and it is the Smithsonian’s most universally accessible app for people with disabilities. The app can be used on a native screen reader, and it provides transcripts for those who are hearing impaired. For visitors with low vision, the app has an accessibility mode that offers visual descriptions of objects and gallery settings. The Freer|Sackler provides headphone splitters for families who wish to experience the app together in the galleries.

The “Freer Thinking Audio App” is available for iPhone 5 and later and iOS 10 or later in the Apple App Store. The audio content is available online from any device through The app will be available for Android devices later. The “Freer Thinking Audio App” is supported in part by a gift from Antoine and Emily van Agtmael.

About the Freer|Sackler

The Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery of Art and the adjacent Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, located on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., together comprise the nation’s museums of Asian art. It contains one of the most important collections of Asian art in the world, featuring more than 40,000 objects ranging in time from the Neolithic to the present day, with especially fine groupings of Islamic art, Chinese jades, bronzes and paintings and the art of the ancient Near East. The Freer|Sackler also contains important masterworks from Japan, ancient Egypt, South and Southeast Asia and Korea, as well as the Freer’s noted collection of works by American artist James McNeill Whistler.

The Freer|Sackler is a part of the Smithsonian Institution, the world’s largest museum, education and research complex, which is dedicated to the increase and diffusion of knowledge. 

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Jennifer Mitchell