Saturday, September 24, 2011

Guide to the Guides

Anyone who knows me well knows my unwavering love of museum audio guides, in fact, maybe just audio in general (Ira Glass you make my life complete!). While I am out and about being a tourist I get great joy from a museum visit and the accompanying audio tour. I love the cheesy music, or the special children's tracks, the atmospheric sound effects, or the imagined voices of the artists brought back to life through my headphones. But not all guides are equal. So here you have it, a new feature on the blog to help guide you through the guides.

The National Gallery (London)

This audio guide was my preferred type - it looks a bit like this - small and easy to wear, with headphones for easy hands-free listening. At first I really liked this guide. It is far more scholarly than most, offering an in-depth discussion of most works in the permanent collection. However, I quickly realised that listening to info on every work would make my visit into a week-long mission! So I started getting more selective, and just listened to a few tracks per room. But even then, I soon got sick of that too, because the first half of each tract simply described the image! The image in front of me. The image I can use my eyes to see, while I listen. I much prefer a guide that assumes you are able to see the basics in front of you, and offers background, contextual info, or interesting stories about the artist, patron or subject. So I guess all in all I was pretty disappointed with this one. I wouldn't recommend it folks - take your glasses and read the wall panels instead!
rating: 2 stars

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