Many museums struggle with maintaining a good balance of technology – enough to attract (and keep the attention of) younger crowds, but not so much that visitors who go to museums to “unplug” are unable to do so. The best solution is to give visitors options. They can sign up for the facebook and the instagram feeds; they can walk past the video touch screens. Museums Gone Viral brings you real ways that museums have used technology and the internet to reach a variety of visitor groups.

I know I’m a little late to the party, but I just recently discovered the Peabody Essex Museum’s “Mood-O-Meter.”

Screen Shot 2015-12-01 at 5.58.46 PM

A few weeks ago in the Tufts course Museums and Digital Media, we were treated to a fascinating discussion with Jim Olson, Director of Integrated Media at PEM. Among the many examples of digital media at the museum was an interactive piece created for the “Turner and the Sea” exhibition in the summer of 2014. The exhibition focused on Joseph Mallord William Turner’s work and his multitude of work focused on different depictions of the sea. Turner has such a wide variety of emotions poured into his work, some more abstract than others, that the PEM team decided to create a “period-appropriate” apothecary website. The site takes you through a series of questions and choices based on your mood, and then spits out a Turner painting that might match your current feelings.

Turner and I agree on my choice of a bright pink "Rose Madder" as my color of choice

Turner and I agree on my choice of a bright pink “Rose Madder” as my color of choice

I think this is a great way to get people more involved in the exhibition, and I love that you can access it at home as well as in the exhibition (when it was up, the space included ipads that hosted the site). The Mood-O-Meter is fun and slightly cheeky, which makes you want to use it again and again, finding a Turner piece for every mood you might have. Beyond the amusement, it dives deeper into Turner’s painting methods, asking users to pick a color of paint that they feel drawn to and explaining how it was created or used.

The website fosters a feeling of personal investment in the painting – after all, your mood might be close to Turner’s when he painted it, or perhaps to the mood of the sea on that day, and it creates a desire for visitors to take a closer look at the painting and spend more time with it. You can even access the Mood-O-Meter at any time, even though the exhibition closed over a year ago. If you know that the website is there, you can continue exploring Turner and his artwork for as long as you please. Check it out here.

Playful and funny, the Mood-O-Meter even has you choose your cheese preference before telling you about Turner's own love of cheese.

Playful and funny, the Mood-O-Meter even has you choose your cheese preference before telling you about Turner’s own love of cheese.

Here is what the Mood-O-Meter decided I would enjoy looking at based on my mood (click on the image to zoom in):

Screen Shot 2015-12-01 at 6.03.21 PMI have to say that I did enjoy it, probably more than I would have if I was just encountering the painting on my own. I don’t generally like or truly appreciate works of art that are more abstract, but I found myself looking more closely at the chosen painting for ways to connect my mood with the piece.

If you want to know more about how the Mood-O-Meter came about, check out this discussion with creators Jim Olson and Caroline Herr.