Nintendo consoles

The Louvre is abandoning audio guides for Nintendo consoles

Visitors to the Louvre Museum in Paris can now tour the galleries with a Nintendo game console instead of a traditional audio guide in hand. Innovative video devices are equipped with a navigation system and a “masterpieces” guided walk.

PA – The Louvre Museum is used to dealing with antiquities: Almost all of its thousands of works of art date from 1848 or earlier. Now he wants to create his own relic – the old museum audio guide.

The famous Parisian museum, whose origins date back to the 18th century, is turning to modernity and going visual with new electronic guides as part of an agreement with Japanese Nintendo.

The guide provides 3DS game consoles that offer tactile, visual and audio guidance to visitors who populate the labyrinthine halls of the museum by the millions each year.

Billed as an unprecedented innovation in a museum, the games consoles launched this week offer 700 recordings of famous works like the Venus de Milo, the Winged Victory of Samothrace and the Mona Lisa – just a tiny fraction of the approximately 35,000 works on display in the museum .

Electronic guides, both navigating and informative, offer virtual glimpses of artistic touches that are hard to see with the naked eye, like tiny details on towering paintings on the museum’s wood-panelled walls.

They will use much of the same information in the audio guides now on the Louvre’s shelves.

Pairing France’s most prestigious museums with a Japanese tech company behind games like Donkey Kong, Mario Brothers, and Zelda might not seem natural.

And some may view the e-Guide as a showcase for Nintendo. But Louvre officials say the museum must move with the times and try to reach the widest audience possible.

Over the years, the Louvre has caused controversy with some of its innovations, including the glass pyramid entrance by Chinese-American architect IM Pei or the sharing of parts of its huge collection with wealthy countries like the United Arab Emirates – which is due to open a Louvre Affiliate in 2015.

The console is above all intended to reach the clientele of the Louvre: the museum welcomed 8.9 million visitors last year, more than half of whom were under 30 and around two-thirds foreigners.

Guides, so far available in seven languages, cost €5 ($6.50) on top of the museum’s standard €10 ($13) admission price. And soon: French sign language.

Press a button and the viewer virtually floats above, say, statues of Michelangelo, or zooms in close on the tiny cracks in the Mona Lisa’s face – but impossible to see behind a crowded rope line.

The console is handy for looking down on Veronese’s 60-square-meter (645-square-foot) painting “The Wedding at Cana,” across from the Mona Lisa. Details of the giant painting easily visible on the screen can be checked against the real thing.

The biggest benefit may be helping art lovers get around: visitors see their location, which flashes inside a diagram of the exhibition halls on one of the console’s two screens.

A menu allows a specific search for one of the museum’s 50 most popular works and can plot a path to get there. Another feature is a “masterpieces” walk.

Due to the thick walls of the Louvre and the fact that some of its exhibition spaces are underground, 3G mobile phone networks do not reach everywhere inside. The positioning system is based on beacons posted around the museum.

Nintendo’s general manager for France, Stephan Bole, insisted that the console is not intended to replace a live in-person visit: virtual is not the same as seeing the works themselves.

“The 3DS is about helping a visit stay alive – you have to see the paintings to appreciate them,” he said over the phone. “We want to complete the real live tour.”

Many visitors were spotted walking around with the new 3DS guides on Thursday afternoon. But some, when asked how they liked them, complained of a steep learning curve.

“The classic, usual audio guide works best. I should search for the information there, instead of just pressing the number” next to an artwork, said Naoyuki Tomizawa, a 41-year-old IT manager from Tokyo.

Next, a Louvre staff member showed how the console can do that, too.

“Oh, I hadn’t noticed that,” Tomizawa replied. “I haven’t played with it enough. The navigation part is good, when you get lost and don’t know where you are.

Meera Bickley, a 45-year-old yoga teacher from Byron Bay, Australia, said she arrived too late in the day – shortly before closing time – and could have used more time to figure out the console.

“Once I figured out how to use it, it was really helpful. The pictures were great, the maps…but actually finding my way around and being able to use them was quite complex,” she said. “I was born in the wrong decade!”

Indeed, her 14-year-old daughter, Matilda Dods, said it was easy. “I understood it right away. It gives you instructions on the screen.

“He says press ‘A’ to get this and press ‘B’ to get this…it’s easy to understand,” Dods said. “Mom is arrested.”