iPad based visitor experience at Puke Ariki

John McLean showing the iPad application he designedInnovative New Plymouth Museum Puke Ariki will launch a new iPad based visitor experience at its next exhibition – local artist John McLean’s The Farmer’s Wife and The Farmer (21 August – 14 November).

The high-tech devices debut a customised application designed around the exhibition, extending the museum’s tools to deliver value to its audience.  

“With more people absorbing information from electronic media, i-Pads were another way of supplying additional information and offering visitors an interactive experience – a more personal level of engagement,” says Gerard Beckingsale, Puke Ariki exhibitions manager.  

“They are also good for tailoring information to each person and great for folk with disabilities – like people who need larger text or spoken labels”.

The exhibition is a chance to explore how the creative process works and to ask why certain mechanical processes are chosen.  McLean’s work lends itself to these purposes perfectly. His paintings are rich in motifs and symbols, open to many interpretations, and appeal to all ages.

In The Farmer’s Wife and The Farmer exhibition, i-Pads help demonstrate McLean’s singular artistic process. Users enjoy an artist’s tour of the exhibition, audio catalogue labels, and video footage. The application also enables the user to peel back each layer (or stage) of a painting’s image with a simple flick over its touch-screen; granting insight into McLean’s artistic process.

Being the first in New Zealand to develop i-Pads for public use in a museum brings challenges. The highly sought after i-Pads bring additional planning and security measures, but Puke Ariki believes the rewards for the broader community are greater. Rental is $10 for non-members and $5 for members, users must be over 16 years of age and must leave their current drivers license or passport as security.

Image 1: Gerard Beckingsale, Puke Ariki exhibitions manager, holds one of the museum’s new iPads. Photo courtesy Puke Ariki

Image 2: John McLean, The Farmer Seeking Harbour with the Fishers. Photo courtesy of John McLean


  1. This sounds pretty neat, and especially good to see that the museum is lending out ipads to visitors (I don\’t know that many people here in Wellington that have one, though I do).
    It sounds like an interesting tool to have in an exhibit to gain more interactive detail about the works- but I\’d especially be interested in the opportunity to continue to explore the works using my iPad after visiting the museum and returning home…
    So I wonder,
    Would I be able to download the app myself? Is the app free, or would it be $10 like the rental ipads? Are there options for people (a bigger group at this stage, I think) who have smart phones in general, but not the pretty-niche iPad?

  2. This is a really exciting development for us here at Puke Ariki. It is early days in terms of the application development and we have kept it pretty simple as a test bed for the iPad hardware. We will watch with interest how our visitors respond and engage with the iPads and use that information for further devlopment. At this stage the application hasnt been published, so it will not be available to download. This is largely due to the security measures we have built into the iPad, which are not necessarily a desirable thing to have on personal iPads. There are work arounds for this; we just havent had the developmental time to resolve it. It will happen though – watch this space!

  3. Hi Gerard
    Congratulations on putting this application togethr and supporting the iPad so quickly!!
    Great to see you taking the lead with multimedia interactivity for teh public in a museum setting. I look forward to catching up soon and hearing how it is going.
    Peter S

  4. Very impressed to see that you are trying out iPads as a way of offering your visitors more information and interpretation in exhibitions.
    I\’m really interested to hear more about how it goes and see what responses you get from visitors. If anyone is coming along to the National Digital Forum in Wellington 18-19 Oct, and/or the Let\’s Get Digital Barcamp it would be great to get together and have a talk about this.

  5. Hello,
    We are looking at purchasing ipads for our visitors to enhance our interpretation in the museum. How do you dirtibute your ipads to visitors and what percentage are broken and how do you limit the risk of theft? Looking forward to hearing from you.
    Carrie Ross

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