January 27, 2022

Now Available: A Smithsonian Museum Debuts Augmented Reality App For iOS

NOTE: The last sentence of the announcement below points out that some of the apps AR functionality works by simply pointing your iOS device at a computer screen showing the National Postal Museum web site.

From the Smithsonian Institution:

The Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum launched a new app that brings exhibit objects to life. MagnifiAR is an augmented reality app for the iPhone and iPad that allows museum visitors to unlock additional layers of interpretive content for select artifacts in two of the museum’s exhibitions—“Pacific Exchange: China & U.S. Mail” and “Mail by Rail.”

After downloading the free app from Apple’s iTunes Store, visitors point the camera of their mobile device at select exhibit objects and images. The fun, interactive and family-friendly app highlights stamps, artwork and artifacts that trigger video footage, images, trivia and games to connect visitors to exhibit objects in meaningful ways.

In “Pacific Exchange: China & U.S. Mail,” an exhibit that looks at the relationship of the two countries through the study of stamps and mail, visitors can go on a safari hunt and bring animals to life. Finding seven specific exhibit objects will unlock surprising information and unexpected fun. Locating the Chinese Giant Panda stamps from 1973 connects visitors to the National Zoological Park’s two live panda cams to witness Mei Xiang, Tian Tian and baby cub Bao Bao in their cozy habitat. Discovering the Chinese black-necked crane stamp launches a video of the cranes performing exotic dances. The U.S. Postal Service’s 2012 Year of the Dragon artwork brings to life a Chinese Lunar New Year dragon dance. Visitors can also discover which animal corresponds to their year of birth by locating the 37-cent Year of the Rabbit Chinese New Year artwork from 1999.

“This new app encourages families to engage with exhibit artifacts in a fun new way at the National Postal Museum,” said Allen Kane, director of the museum.

“Mail by Rail,” an exhibit where visitors explore the story of the Railway Post Office, allows visitors to experience life on the rail in the early 20th century. Postal clerks aboard the mail cars could sort 600 pieces of mail per hour. When visitors point their device at one of the enlarged photos in the railway mail car, a video will launch showing how mail clerks sorted mail aboard a train.


Visitors without an Apple device or smartphone may check-out an iPod Touch at the museum’s information desk (valid photo identification required) to explore the new app. “The museum is always working to improve the visitor experience, and new technologies allow for new opportunities,” said K. Allison Wickens, museum education director. “Even if you are at home, you can use our new app to bring the animal stamps in our China exhibit to life by pointing your mobile device at our website from your own computer screen!”

Direct to iTunes App Store to Download MagnifAR App

See Also: A Few More Cool Apps from the Smithsonian (All Free)

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.