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Museums and the Web

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Vishnu's Avatars




Brooklyn Museum




Innovative | Experimental


Known as Hinduism's gentle god, Vishnu is easily recognized in paintings by his blue skin. While he is an interesting figure in his primary form, the complexity of Vishnu's character becomes clear when he assumes new forms, known as avatars, in order to save the earth from various dangers. Vishnu's ten avatars reveal the multiplicity of ways that one can envision and interact with the divine. Vishnu's avatars have been depicted in incredibly diverse styles and media for thousands of years, in both high art and popular culture.

 Start ScreenVishnu's Avatars: Start ScreenOur challenge was to offer visitors to Vishnu: Hinduism's Blue-Skinned Savior an engaging entry point to Vishnu's many avatars. Each avatar has individual traits and a wonderfully complex set of narratives, but teasing out the distinctions between them can be tricky if you're new to Sanskrit names and Hindu traditions. The result was a series of iPad kiosks that offered a supplementary path through the exhibition.

 QuizVishnu's Avatars: QuizAt the first set of iPads, visitors were able to take a quiz to determine which avatar would be most likely to accompany them through the gallery.

Through the use of the quiz, visitors could get a summary of that avatar's traits and take a physical tag bearing the avatar's image to be worn throughout their visit.

Inside the exhibition iPad kiosks were placed in front of specific artworks and encouraged visitors to check-in with their avatar and then utilize the touchscreen to find their avatar depicted in the work of art.

 Artwork KioskVishnu's Avatars: Artwork KioskAt a final set of stations, people were able to share which artwork depicting the avatar they enjoyed the most. 

Use of the iPad interactive was considered very successful with 28% of visitors taking part in the activity. Of those surveyed, 100% of visitors found the iPads inviting and easy to use; 82% felt the iPads provided the right kind of information, kept their attention and didn't distract from the artwork; 73% felt the interactive made them think more about the artwork and was helpful to their experience of the art; 91% felt use of the iPads was a positive experience.   Artwork KioskVishnu's Avatars: Artwork Kiosk

Sanjay Patel, a Pixar animator and illustrator known for his striking, modern depictions of Hindu deities, created the illustrations of Vishnu's Avatars. The Vishnu interactive was developed in-house at the Brooklyn Museum.  Paul Beaudoin, Lead Web Programmer, was the project's technical lead with Jennifer Bantz, Interpretive Materials Manager, the creative lead. The project was inspired by the Walters Art Museum's "Heroes" project.

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