Mobile barcode usage in museums is just now starting to take shape. I’ve put together a sampling of some uses ranging from audio tours to augmented reality. There have been some miscues along the way, like laminating the QR code or putting it behind glass so that when the light hits it at the right angle, it’s impossible to scan correctly. Oops! But there have also been many successful implementations. QR codes are a great way to enhance the visitor’s experience. They can bring life to exhibits, allow communication between visitors and educate at all levels.

Richmond Children's Museum QR Code

Let’s start with Richmond and Indianapolis. Indianapolis has used QR codes to do the simple task of redirecting the smartphone user to a Wiki page with more information about what the exhibit is trying to teach the kids. Richmond is taking their education of the children to a whole new level. Focusing on their four main exhibits, they have added QR codes for the parents to scan. Once scanned, they are redirected to a video that they staff has produced that explains the lesson they want the children to learn. These ideas can be carried out at the museum or extended to the home.

Why QR and mobile? Why not video kiosk at the exhibit? They tried that. The environment is about high-energy and interaction. The video monitors were disruptive to the learning process and too hard to hear. Above is a sample of one of the videos that is available via the QR code.

Cleveland Egyptian Shawabtys

Speaking of audio, the Cleveland Museum of Art and Bologna’s Museum of Archeology are using QR codes to do audio tours of their collections. The tour is for the new galleries: ancient Near East, Greek, Roman, Egyptian art; Byzantine and medieval art; African art; and prints and drawings. Once the code has been scanned, the user is taken to an online version of the audio tour.

The poster-sized art ads are in 11 different kiosk locations throughout Cleveland, including Little Italy and Tremont and smaller posters were placed thorough libraries and other public areas. The QR code takes art enthusiasts right to the museum’s webpage, driving web traffic and allowing tours to be heard right off your smartphone, promoting the new galleries.

This photo, “Derby Museum visitor uses QR Code.jpg” is copyright (c) 2011 victuallers2 and made available under a Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 license

This new service from Italy’s public museums, realized in collaboration with Loquendo, transforms visitors’ mobile devices into modern audio and video guides, an exciting way for people to access and enjoy their cultural heritage. The QR codes have been launched in Bologna’s Museum of Archeology, Collezioni Comunali d’Arte (City Art Collections) and Museo Civico del Risorgimento (Museum of the Italian Resurgence). In the coming months the service will be extended to other public museums of Bologna, including historic buildings, churches and monuments, all tagged with QR codes that can link together to create special themed walks around the city (e.g. the City of Music, medieval Bologna, etc.).

By launching the reader and photographing the QR code, the information stored within it will be read aloud by the mobile device using Loquendo Text-to-Speech. That information can include additional data about the collection or exhibits, as well as images, documents, sound, and video, and is made available to the visitor, free of charge and in a flexible and user-friendly way.


MEanderthalSmithsonian Natural History Museum used QR codes as part of an exhibit on Neanderthals. The “MEanderthals” campaign’s QR codes sent users to a site where that can upload a photo, see what they would have looked like 30,000 years ago, and share via Facebook and email.



ScoutQuestFor the 100th anniversary of Scouting, the Smithsonian created a scavenger hunt for the hoards of Boy Scouts coming through their Resource Center. They placed them throughout the museum giving them clues to the next code. The quest could include an activity for them to do, making a simple ring-and-pin game, and help them learn about traditional Native American games. The utilization of connecting the Boy Scouts to the Native cultures was brilliant giving them insight that they could relate to thus strengthening the respect for Native Americans.



Some museums, like the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archeology and Fenimore Art Museum, have tied a more social aspect to the QR Code experience. At Fenimore, each artifact in the exhibition is accompanied by an original blog post, original comments associated with that post, and the QR code that directs users to the post itself. Visitors are encouraged to use the codes to link to the comments section and leave their own thoughts about the artifacts and the exhibition.

Petrie Museum

Photos from Terrence Eden Has a Blog

The Petrie is one of London’s smallest museum but holds a collection of fascinating ancient Egyptian artifacts. Once you’ve scanned the QR code, a visitor can read more about the artifact and leave a message about it. There is a mounted iPad, like the Grant Museum of Zoology, that allows visitors without smartphones to do the same. You can go back and look at other comments via the Tales of Things app.

Similarly, the National Museum of Scotland uses Tales of Things too. Around 80 objects in the Scotland: A Changing Nation gallery have been ‘tagged’ with QR codes. The visitor is taken straight to a website page with further detail about the item, from video and audio clips to images and fun facts


PicassoThe Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, in coordination with the Martin Agency, launched a brilliant campaign bringing together QR and AR (augmented reality). Augmented reality is technical voodoo that allows you to view virtual objects in real space. They have set up areas in multiple cities across the East Coast and in 33 Richmond Starbucks to act as virtual museums. Places like vacant lots or the streets of SoHo, have been transformed into art galleries using QR codes that launch the AR app (using Layar) that “places” the art “on the wall” of your smartphone. Now people in New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. get to enjoy this exhibition as they walk down the streets of their city.

To further the QR cause, the print and out-of-home elements used a portrait of Picasso made entirely of QR codes. When a phone scans the QR image, it is re-directed to a landing page featuring Picasso’s work and an invitation to buy tickets to the exhibition. The innovation of this campaign that blends together the technologies of QR and AR is a fitting bit of genius for the innovative genius that is Picasso.

Fashion museum

Although we’re still getting used to QR codes, museums are finding some fascinating and innovative ways to use them. A project at a UK museum showed that the use of mobile phones by kids at museums increases their length of stay 4.5 times the average. It’s a new, novel and engaging way to teach whether it be fashion, art, science or history. We are at the beginning of what is possible with the technologies that are developing every day.

What do you plan to do to upgrade your next experience? How can you use mobile to enhance your museum or business?


71 Responses to QR Codes in Museums

  1. Eric Longo says:

    “Talk to Me” (, a great design exhibition currently on view through Nov 7, 2011 at MoMA in NYC, and that explores the communication between people and things, features QR codes on each wall label. Each QR code links to a special webpage specifically designed for each exhibit. A very clever way to add to the interpretive experience.

  2. Mar Dixon says:

    Interesting article, thanks for compiling these examples. I’ve recently been trying to find different examples of QR codes (that didn’t just go to WikiPedia). I know The Palace of Versailles are using a version of AR within their gardens and Attingham Park National Trust (UK) has QR that points to their own YouTube channel so seeing these different options has been a great help!

    Thank you!

    • Judd Wheeler says:

      Mar, I’m glad I can help. I wish you wouldn’t have told me about Attingham Park National Trust. Now I’m ready to go there for my next family vacation after seeing their YouTube video. If only I could.

  3. Please check out an audio tour service for Artists, Galleries and Art Tours. You can be your own museum for as little as $19.95 per year for one 2-min message. Call 888-827-8566 and enter ArtNumber 0001 & LookNumber 83 when prompted. Let me know what you think.

  4. Clairey says:

    Great post, thank you for bringing all of the examples together. I just wanted to add that with the iPad’s in the Grant Museum and Petrie Museum you can also see the QRcode comments online ( as well as add your own comments. So the QR experience can continue off site.

    Also you mention studies indicate the use of QR codes by teens increases length of stay 4.5 times. Would it be possible to share those studies? I couldnt find any when I looked.


  5. Terence Eden says:


    Great article – good to see so many museums getting into the QR craze.

    Would you mind not using my photos without a credit (or a link back to my original blog post)? Thanks!

    The QR codes which go to Wikipedia are from QRpedia – a project I’m a member of. Rather than just directing the user to a mobile Wikipedia page, we detect their preferred language and redirect them to a page that has been translated into their language.


    • Judd Wheeler says:

      Terence, my most humble apology. I was in a hurry to get to a meeting and it slipped through my review. I will add the credit today. Thank you for alerting me.

  6. Massimiliano says:

    Good job. We also are working in North-Italy, using a self made platform to easily manage qrcode contents. Look here

  7. Massimiliano says:

    Good job. We are working to the development of a qr code platform specific for tourism and museums. Look here:

  8. Seb Chan recently wrote a very interesting piece on in-gallery QR-usage patterns at the Powerhouse Museum including some hard stats:

    • Judd Wheeler says:

      Thanks for sharing. A great piece and some interesting discoveries that were made. One thing that quickly popped out at me was toward the end when the post discussed the comparison of number of scans in a densely populated QR code room versus few QR codes in a single room. Of course, until they do some more research that includes inversing the room QR population, it’s hard to tell if it has meaning about the frequency of QR codes or the level of interest in the information. Still, it’s a great read.

  9. says:

    It’s great to see using QR Code to provide information and educate people. We have few similar examples on our blog and also provide generation of dynamic QR Codes

  10. Andy Mabbett says:

    Two things:

    You don’t mention QRpedia, a system which uses QRCodes to serve Wikipedia articles, in mobile-friendly format in whatever language is used by the user’s mobile device. I wrote a Wikipedia article about QRpedia, and am happy to advise further.

    Secondly, at least one of the images above (woman and child) appears to be used in contravention of its CC-BY-SA licence; which requires (unless you have separate dispensation) that you to give attribution to its creator.

    • Judd Wheeler says:

      Andy, thank you for alerting me to my mistake. I rushed to finish the post and forgot to attribute the photos appropriately. I just went to your site and enjoyed the read. Thanks again for your help.

  11. Sol says:

    All this is fascinating. However there is a problem with hacking QR codes in general. For the end user all QR codes look more or less the same. I personally stwpwd in a hacked QR code where someone has probably removed a QR code on a sticker in a museum and replaced it with a QR code which redirected you to an adulr site!

    • Judd Wheeler says:

      This is very possible. To help get around it, museums could put their logo, colorize it or put some sort of graphic indicator to help fend off some of these hackers. They could also use something that’s proprietary like SnapTag to help deter these types of attacks. Nothing is fool-proof. Even NFC could have similar issues in the future. Someone could put a NFC chip under a sticker and place it over the “official” chip and take them to a adult site. You bring up a good point.

  12. […] They can bring life to exhibits, allow communication between visitors and educate at all levels.Show original Posted in QR Code Marketing | Leave a comment […]

  13. […] As we say goodbye to summer, here’s a look at how far the QR code has traveled. It’s on exhibit at the museum and in store windows too. Even the kids in the classroom are scanning and creating. Are marketers […]

  14. Thanks for the great post. At the cost of sounding like a big advertisement, I wanted to talk about my product which relates to the topic of museums and QR codes. I really do think it will interest people, but my apologies in advance if this annoys you.

    I have added QR scanning capabilities to my app called Mused for iPhone. It’s still under heavy development, but I thought it might interest those who like to visit museums with their iPhones, or those that work for museums.

    We’re still toying with the idea of creating special Mused-only QR codes, and exploring the idea of having universal QR codes that are legible from any QR scanner. I think the winner is going to be QR codes that open on any QR scanner but shows special content when opened in the Mused application. Read more at

    Also, if you haven’t listed your museum in the Mused database yet, you should do that right now at the free Mused Curator Portal (

    Would love some feedback as there are some things we still haven’t quite figured out!

  15. Lars Bredahl says:

    Very interesting! I recently coordinated the creation of a QR-based Interactive Nature Trail at the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. I’d love to work with other museums and parks interested in similar projects. Feel free to connect!

    Check out our press:

    • Judd Wheeler says:

      Lars, nice work with the refuge. I had read through the article when I was researching the cemetery use of QR codes. Good to meet the person behind it. Thank you for sharing.

  16. […] multipurpose mobile devices makes things more difficult. It’s going to be hard for museums to be plastering their objects and displays with QR codes at the same time as attempting to restrict the use of the only device that can make sense of a QR […]

  17. Adrian says:

    Great Article and well constructed.

    A question? I start of with, and for example and type in Pablo Picasso, I get the following link; I then go to QRpedia and paste this link in to the QR generator;, and get the familar QR box.

    How do I set up a tracking system to see any visitors, can it be done in Google Analytics or have I got to go to something like

    Has anyone any ideas or assist me

  18. Thank you for the article and putting all the Museum QR examples together. FYI –Cleveland Museum of Art (CMA) (not cleveland art museum) will also be implementing technology to view information about our objects through image scan recognition — (taking away the need for the QR code) — stay tune – :)

    Kind Regards, Jane

    • Judd Wheeler says:

      Jane, thank you and I apologize for getting it wrong. I’m not sure how I transposed that and missed it. BUT, I’m excited if it led you to comment because I’m looking forward to hearing more about your image scan recognition project! Please let me know when it happens. I will definitely be staying tuned.

      Thank you, Judd

  19. Interesting article, thanks for compiling these examples.
    I’m currently using qr code generator with a premium account for my real estate enterprise.. i think this is the future.

  20. […] the mobilists – QR Codes in Museums […]

  21. […] I’m incredibly drawn to QR codes and their potential. There’s so much you could do. (QR Codes in Museums, article) Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. Filed under […]

  22. […] The Moblists, Museum Next, and Collections Spotlight from the National Trust blogs provide some great case studies on museums which are using QR codes to enhance visitor experience […]

  23. Thank you for writing an article that demonstrates uses of qr codes that are very beneficial to those who scan. All too often qr codes are only thought of as a way to market companies. QR Codes have so many excellent uses that can benefit society. Thank you again for educating people about qr codes.

  24. […] have embraced QR codes and AR (augmented reality) in some pretty amazing and engaging ways. You can travel back in time, […]

  25. […]  [Translate]  Print Tags: 2D Barcodes, QR Codes, QR Codes for Local Businesses, Quick Response Codes, What is a QR Code? Posted in 2TM2 Blog, QR Codes « Foursquare — What’s In It For You? […]

  26. David Busby says:

    Our project a provides for a simple and very affordable method for museums and other exhibitors to create rich-media content and connect it to exhibits via QR code.

  27. […] Refuge (Florida), Pheasant Valley Winery (Oregon), Long Beach (Washington) Discovery Trail, various museum tours, and the Explore Cebu (Philipines) Heritage […]

  28. Learniply says:

    You should check out

    The learniply platform uses QR Codes placed in public locations such as art galleries, museums, zoos and nature parks, to allow anyone with a smartphone to locate information related to their current location. This information is created through your free learniply account, and can include anything from information about a nearby exhibit to interpretive or way finding information.

  29. Kr says:

    Qr codes r the best :)

  30. […] have successfully implemented QR code programs with audiences who are already primed to learn. At The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, the live exhibits are designed for kids, but parents can participate in the experience by scanning […]

  31. alex says:

    hey i think this website is very information and is helpful to the projects i am helping work on, also this other website has some contradictory things within it hope you can prove them wrong

  32. […] a captive audience –Use QR codes to inform customers already in your store just like the museums are using QR codes to give visitors an audio tour of exhibits.  You might not have an exhibit, but you can mold this […]

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  36. […] are some very creative uses of QR Codes out there. I’ve seen them at museums to link people to videos describing the art piece. I’ve also seen them on instruction manuals […]

  37. […] have embraced QR codes and AR (augmented reality) in some pretty amazing and engaging ways. You can travel back in time, […]

  38. […] high quality, color poster printed and mounted before the entry of the gardens which will include a QR code so that visitors can download the app before entering the collections. Eventually, trail maps and […]

  39. Graham Trott says:

    This article is now nearly 4 years old and I am surprised to find that little changed happened since it was written. Most of the links in the above comments are dead, so QR technology is not evidently making any huge progress in museums at least. There’s also some kite-flying; was the featurephone the woman in the photo was holding really able to display a mobile web page?

    This is all rather disappointing as I’ve been convinced for a long time that museums need to improve the way they present information, and that QR codes are still the best way to go.

    So I’ll promote my own product; MGScan is a website where anyone can build multilingual mobile web pages and their barcodes, with an associated Android scanner app to read them. It’s a DIY system for those willing to tackle the (relatively short) learning curve, or we can offer a service to do the job.

    We are seeking to work with small museums to get the technology established and will be pleased to hear from anyone sharing this interest. There’s also a new LinkedIn group if anyone would care to start a discussion.

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