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The Barnes Foundation Unveils Barnes Focus, New Mobile Guide

Easy-to-use mobile guide enables deeper exploration of the Barnes collection; no download required

Philadelphia, PA, October 31, 2019—The Barnes Foundation has announced the launch of Barnes Focus, a new interpretive guide to the collection that works on any smartphone with a web browser. When you’re in the galleries, simply open the guide by going to on a mobile browser and focus on a work of art; the guide will recognize the work and deliver information about it.

Barnes Focus is the result of a collaboration between the Barnes Foundation’s curatorial, education, and technology teams. The guide uses a smartphone’s camera combined with image-recognition technology to send information about works in the collection. This is a particularly crucial step for the Barnes, as founder Dr. Albert C. Barnes’s unconventional arrangements do not include interpretive content on the gallery walls.

As you continue using Barnes Focus throughout a visit, certain works prompt the guide to share stories about the Barnes collection. For example, focusing on a Renoir painting may prompt a story about Dr. Barnes’s love of the artist’s work and how he amassed the largest Renoir collection in the world. Other stories highlight themes—music and dance, for instance—and art historical connections between paintings and objects. The guide uses your interest as a starting point to introduce other works on view in the room, delving deeper into the history of the collection or revealing more about an artist. New content is added continuously.

“Founder Dr. Albert C. Barnes developed a unique approach to teaching about art that was grounded in pure visual engagement, and his unconventional arrangement of the collection presents the works without interpretive content. Barnes Focus enhances the visitor experience by offering information and stories about the art and objects in the collection, while maintaining its historic hang,” says Thom Collins, Neubauer Family Executive Director and President. “Barnes Focus is an example of the exciting ways museums can use technology to inspire, delight, and educate visitors. We are committed to thoughtfully and strategically leveraging technology—combined with the expertise of our educators, curators, visitor engagement team, and technologists—to stimulate curiosity, social engagement, and personal connections with art.”

When you use Barnes Focus to browse the collection, your browsing history is automatically saved. Entering your email address sends links to the works and the stories you accessed in the galleries, enabling you to take your visit home. Barnes Focus also leverages the Google Translate API, so you can automatically translate the guide into Spanish, French, German, Italian, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean.

Barnes Focus was made possible by generous support from The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation as part of the Knight Center for Digital Innovation in Audience Engagement at the Barnes.

Barra Foundation provided early support to prototype and test mobile technology in the Barnes collection during 2016. Lessons learned during those pilots informed the creation and implementation of Barnes Focus.

The Barnes Foundation

HappyFunCorp, a software engineering firm based in Brooklyn, NY, designed and engineered Barnes Focus. Early prototypes were designed by Area 17.

Barnes Focus was developed as open source software; code repository is available at Barnes Foundation on GitHub.

The Barnes Foundation is a nonprofit cultural and educational institution that shares its unparalleled art collection with the public, organizes special exhibitions, and presents programming that fosters new ways of thinking about human creativity. The Barnes collection is displayed in ensembles that integrate art and objects from across cultures and time periods, overturning traditional hierarchies and revealing universal elements of human expression. Home to one of the world’s finest collections of impressionist, post-impressionist, and modern paintings—including the largest groups of paintings by Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Paul Cézanne in existence—the Barnes brings together renowned canvases by Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Amedeo Modigliani, and Vincent van Gogh, alongside African, Asian, ancient and medieval art as well as metalwork, furniture, and decorative art.

The Barnes Foundation was established by Dr. Albert C. Barnes in 1922 to “promote the advancement of education and the appreciation of the fine arts and horticulture.” Since moving to Philadelphia in 2012, the Barnes has expanded its commitment to teaching visual literacy in groundbreaking ways, investing in original scholarship relating to its collection, and enhancing accessibility throughout every facet of its program.

The Barnes is open Wednesday–Monday, and tickets can be purchased on-site, online, or by calling 215.278.7000. Ticket prices and current hours are listed on our website.

Deirdre Maher, Director of Communications
Online press office