AidSpace Blog

Going Mobile

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The National Air and Space Museum is testing a new mobile website—the first at the Smithsonian!  Visitors carrying web-enabled smartphones can now access basic information about the Museum, daily events, exhibits and find objects on display through this new site formatted for mobile devices. Visit to give it a try.

Mobile internet use is rapidly on the rise and experts predict mobile devices will be the primary way humans access the internet by 2020 (See: The Future of the Internet III, Pew Internet & American Life Project).  We are currently working on a redesign of the Air and Space Museum’s web site and our plans include reaching this growing mobile audience.  As we create content for the web, we want to plan for audiences accessing that content in multiple ways, whether from a desktop PC, Blackberry, iPad or other devices in the future.  Most importantly, this test allows us to solicit feedback from our audience in the early stages.  You can help determine which direction we go from here!

For this first effort, we decided to keep things very simple.  We narrowed the target audience to visitors on-site at the Museum or those planning a visit.   We realize visitors who are not coming to the Museum deserve mobile web, too, so we plan to cater to a broader audience in successive versions.   At this point, the mobile web site has just the basics: hours and location, directions, daily events and movie schedules, exhibitions, and objects on display. It is not a multimedia tour (yet), but is meant to provide useful information from our web site in a format tailored to a mobile audience.  One of the most frequently asked questions from visitors coming to the Welcome Center are about where things are, so we developed a mobile guide to “Objects on Display.”  Visitors can search by object name and find where an object is located in either the National Mall Building or the Udvar-Hazy Center.   We also added maps to this feature that we plan to incorporate into the main web site.  This is just one of several examples where our work on the mobile site is feeding back into improvements for our regular web presence.

Instead of creating a specialized app, we decided a mobile web site built in-house would serve more visitors, be faster to implement and be more flexible to change. We did build and test the site primarily on the iPhone, so we are looking forward to getting feedback on any technical issues while viewing the site on other mobile devices.

What would you like to see in a National Air and Space Museum mobile experience? We have lofty plans for the future, including more Museum content like videos and tours.  We are most excited about features that will allow you to control and personalize your own experience: from bookmarking, adding recommendations, and remixing collections to contributing your own content, comments, or asking questions.  We hope you will give the mobile site a try and let us know what you think!

Please note that cellular service can be spotty at the Udvar-Hazy Center.  We hope this will improve in the near future.

To learn more about what the Smithsonian is doing with mobile, please visit the Smithsonian Web & New Media Strategy public wiki site at For more information about what other museums are doing and planning with mobile, please visit “Museums To Go” at

Vicki Portway is Chair of Web & New Media at the National Air and Space Museum.

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16 thoughts on “Going Mobile

  1. Suggestion! Simple one too! All newer Verizon wireless phones and other carriers’ are building WI-fi into their phones! Expose website via wifi in UH!

  2. Thanks, and you are right, wifi would be great. Smithsonian does not yet have public wifi available at either of our locations. I’m hopeful that free public wifi will be available in all museums Smithsonian-wide someday soon!

  3. Pingback: Briefly Noted for March 30, 2010 : Found History

  4. I wonder if people on a spaceship can access internet. Or if they can call their friends on Earth. If not, this should be the next big invention.

  5. I navigated the mobile site from my Android and it seemed very easy to navigate and it was laid out very well

  6. Very nice mobile site. It was not only easy to use, but was visually pleasing as well (unlike some mobile sites). I would vote for location-awareness being a valuable next step (for when at the museum). Well done!

  7. Accessed your mobile in my hotel a day prior to our visit with my iPad. It worked very nice and is very informative. More pictures and the aircraft on display under the Exhibitions tab would be a little better.

  8. I love this and your plans for the site. I am also in a hotel in your area planning my visit for tomorrow. I have an Android3. It would be wonderful to walk up to an exhibit and learn more from your cell, or use it for a guided tour in which you could explore at your own pace. Thanks for all of your hard work!

  9. Works great on Android. I’m looking for visitors services. We have a 76 year old guest who does not walk well. I’d like to check if you have loaner wheelchairs.

  10. Am using mobile Firefox on android, site is still very text heavy.
    Maybe there could be more objects to click first?

  11. I think this site would be really useful if it had a interactive map. You could see where you are in the museum if you are lost and don’t want to look stupid by asking for directions. Also if you are planning a trip ( I happen to be planning one) you can see what exhibits exist and where you want to go as to not waste precious time wandering around aimlessly through the museum. This site would be very helpful with this feature


  12. Mobile website works, but I agree that the possibilities of self guided tours should be explored. One thought. Your only food provider McDufus, is totally inadequate. We spent ONE HOUR standing in line for “fast food”. Computer system then boxed and shouts of “Cash Only Cash Only”. For heavens sake get someone competent to provide food at the site.

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