Going Beyond the Traditional Tour: 5 Ways Museums Can Deliver Creative Experiences

Creative Tours

So, you’ve taken the plunge, ditched the clunky audio guide or printed handout, and gone digital – now your members can tour your museum with an easy-to-use Cuseum-powered app. But now you’re wondering, “what more can we do with it?” We’ve got the answers. Here are 5 ways you can get creative with your app to drive visitor engagement and enhance the museum-going experience.

Include Unexpected Audio and Video Content

To supplement the traditional audio narrative museum tour, why not include additional audio and visual elements? For example, the National Museum of Wildlife Art app includes a special audio feature that allows visitors to hear wild animal calls, and the San Diego Archaeological Center web app includes video demonstrations of ancient weapons. These are great options for natural history or archaeological museums.

The special animal sounds audio feature on the National Museum of Wildlife Art App

The special animal sounds audio feature on the National Museum of Wildlife Art App

If you’re an art or history museum, perhaps you want to feature an expert commentary on a particular work of art, an audio recording of the historical music score in your collections, or a video demonstration of the ancient arms on display – there are countless ways the objects in your collections can come to life through audio and visual supplements that you can add to your existing tour app!

Feature Your Events

Do you offer special events and programming? You can offer community-driven exhibitions or late night functions that cater to a millennial audience. Your app can be a great place to feature these events. Yale University Art Gallery, for example, uses their app’s events section, which allows them to feature their calendar of special events. The Yale University Art Gallery offers a range of community programs, including teen events, their Sidewalk Studio, film screenings, and family events. All of these are spotlighted directly in their app. By advertising your events in your app, you can increase their reach, drive ticket sales, and deepen your connection to your local community.

Yale University Art Gallery uses the calendar feature of the app to display their many events

Yale University Art Gallery uses the calendar feature of the app to display their many events

Offer Out-of-the-Box Activities

Going beyond the traditional tour means prompting new forms of audience participation. Your app can be a great place to do this in a range of ways. For example, the Norman Rockwell Museum app offers a museum scavenger hunt that allows audience members to engage more deeply with the tour material.

The Norman Rockwell Museum offers a scavenger hunt in addition to traditional tours!

The Norman Rockwell Museum offers a scavenger hunt in addition to traditional tours!

The Musée McCord has taken another approach: they offer a variety of tours not just inside the museum, but also outdoors, guiding visitors through historic downtown Montreal and encouraging them to better understand public space and the urban community. An app can also be a great place to ask for audience feedback, encourage participation in museum events, and advertise volunteer opportunities!

Musée McCord lets visitors discover downtown Montreal with the additional city tour feature in their app.

Musée McCord lets visitors discover downtown Montreal with the additional city tour feature in their app.

Include More than Just Exhibition Tours

An app is a great way to guide your visitors through the exhibitions in your museum. But increasingly, museums are offering more than art on the walls. MoMA has modified its space to include charging ports and comfy seating to engage its millennial audience more successfully, and the Met Breuer provides coffee with open seating to welcome its younger guests. The Dallas Museum of Art transformed gallery space into the Center for Creative Connections. These sorts of spaces are just as important as the exhibitions for attracting audiences of all ages and welcoming them into museums. In addition to guiding visitors through your museum collections, your app can help promote and direct visitors towards community spaces, charging stations, cozy chairs, and other museum amenities.

Share More than History

Museums are an exciting way for audiences to engage with art, history, and culture. Learning about the Baroque painting on the wall can be a window into learning about the world of eighteenth century France, and seeing an old sarcophagus can illuminate the ancient Egyptian world. But more and more, museums and their diverse audiences are engaging with questions of provenance, or the artworks’ history of ownership. Visitors don’t just want to learn about Baroque culture or Egyptology; they’re interested in the complex histories of museums themselves. Provenance “sheds light on its historical, social, and economic context as well as its critical fortunes through time,” and an app can be a great place to communicate this information.

For example, in 2017 the Davis Museum, created a dedicated in-app tour as part of their  Art-less initiative, which either de-installed or shrouded all works in the permanent collections galleries that were created or given by immigrants, to demonstrate the critical role that immigrants play in the arts. The tour spotlights specific objects that were part of Art-Less.

The Davis Museum’s Art-less tour

The Davis Museum’s Art-less tour

MoMa, the Met, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art are all engaging in research on the provenance of their collections as a way to be more socially engaged, ethical, and culturally sensitive. Supplementing your tour with information about object provenance is an engaging way to get your audience thinking not just about art, but also about the history of museums and their role in society!

A tour app is flexible and adaptable to your organization, and it’s always possible to add new features and info to help drive visitor engagement. The possibilities are manifold, and here at Cuseum, we are excited to get creative with you to help you captivate your audience!


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