6 Strategies for Getting Creative with Your Mobile Tour App Content

Be Creative

Whether you’ve gotten your mobile tour app up and running, or are brainstorming about new ways to create tour content that will be compelling to your visitors, there are various, creative ways to approach content creation – or maybe you’re still considering whether an app is the right move for your museum and are eager to know what sorts of possibilities it holds. We’re here to offer you inspiration by shedding light on the many smart strategies the organizations we work with have used to create tours. We’ll illuminate 6 ways your museum can innovate the tour experience, better showcase your organization, and cater to diverse audiences.

Created by Curators & Educators

Your curators and educators are fountains of knowledge, and they take on much of the behind-the-scenes work to put on exhibitions, maintain collections, and make museums engaging spaces for the public. Why not let them offer their insights about the key works of art and objects in your museum’s collection, or share their perspective to introduce the public to your exhibitions? Many of our partners choose to use their app to offer curator-guided museum tours. For example, ICA Boston, SFMOMA, Norman Rockwell Museum, Yale Center for British Art, North Carolina Museum of Art, and Yale University Art Gallery all prominently feature commentary from their curators. Heather Nolin, the Deputy Director for Exhibitions, Programming, and Education at Yale University Art Gallery, said one of their main aims when creating tour content for their permanent collections is to allow curators to share their expert knowledge. Your more seasoned, culture-vulture audiences are sure to appreciate this sort of in-depth tour from the art experts! 

Yale University Art Gallery

Yale University Art Gallery

Created by Your Whole Organization

You don’t have to stick to just a curatorial tour. As you well know, museums are multifaceted organizations with lots of people involved, including students, scholars, and diverse voices. A tour can be a great opportunity to bring together all of the people involved at your museum and allow them to showcase their passion about your collections to engage new audiences. Yale Center for British Art is a great example of this. At every stop along the tour, someone new is featured. This includes directors, curators, former curators, professors, and graduate students with particular interests and expertise in art history. Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art (part of the University of Oklahoma) has taken a similar approach. Each tour is narrated by a different member of the museum community, including student interns, graduate students, museum staff, and University of Oklahoma faculty.

Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art

Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art

North Carolina Museum of Art also involves the entire organization. This variety keeps the tour exciting, and also offers an opportunity to highlight the breadth, diversity, and enthusiasm of your museum and its affiliates. University museums often have wide communities, so this approach to content creation can be a great option.

Created by Artists

Another great way to engage your audience? Artist testimonials. If you’re a contemporary art museum, you can pull direct commentary from featured artists. Both the ICA Boston and SFMOMA app tours include artist commentary alongside curator-made content. Perez Art Museum Miami also took this approach, and their app features a special video commentary “in the studio” with Felice Grodin, whose augmented reality exhibition is currently on display in the museum.

Yale University Art Gallery took a particularly innovative approach to artist content. To accompany their temporary exhibition, Redoubt, by contemporary artist Matthew Barney, their app’s tour included unscripted commentary from Barney. Heather Nolin, Deputy Director for Exhibitions, Programming, and Education, looped Cuseum into their tour-creation process, which started as an unrehearsed interview between Barney and the curator and was then edited down during post production. According to Nolin, “The audio guide really does a great job of giving the visitor a window into the curator-artist conversation that takes place as part of the organizing of the exhibition itself.” Visitors enjoy the “freshness” and organic feel of an unscripted artist interview, which allows them to feel like they’re right there with the artist. Redoubt closed this month after being on display for over a year at Yale, and will open at UCCA in Beijing in September.

Matthew Barney working on the Redoubt Exhibit

Matthew Barney working on the Redoubt Exhibit

Pro tip: If you’re looking to go with a minimalist approach in your exhibition space and avoid clogging up the walls or audio guide with too many specifics, an artist interview can be a great way to deliver compelling, didactic info to your audience without getting caught up in the minutiae.

If you’re not a contemporary art museum, fear not – there are still lots of ways for you to include commentary from artists! For example, the Norman Rockwell Museum, in addition to featuring curatorial content, is also narrated by Peter Rockwell, Norman Rockwell’s son and a prolific sculptor. Featuring content by family members of artists can be an exciting way to bring artwork to life in a museum tour. National Museum of Wildlife Art took another approach. Part of the tour is narrated in excerpts read from Carl Rungius’ letters, a wildlife artist whose work the museum exhibits prominently. There are many ways to give voice to artists in your tours, whether or not you’re a contemporary art museum.

Created with a Theatrical Voice

Let’s face it: kids aren’t always amused by the facts and figures of a painting on the wall or a curator-led tour. But that doesn’t mean museums aren’t for them. With the right approach to content creation, your organization can become a kid and family friendly place. Theatrical content is a great way to do this. For example, the Norman Rockwell Museum lets each listener chose between an “adult tour” and a “family tour.” In the family tour, young visitors can be captivated by the voice of the Norman Rockwell character introducing them to Daniel Boone and other historical figures. By creating theatrical content, you can bring history and art to life and capture the imaginations of young visitors.

Norman Rockwell Museum

Norman Rockwell Museum

Created by Students

Lots of the museums we partner with are academic and university museums. If you’re a university-affiliated museum with a big student audience, or hire student interns, these are great voices to leverage when you’re making content. College students love to hear the passionate voices of their peers during their museum experience. The Davis Museum is a fantastic example of this. Associated with Wellesley College, the Davis Museum hires new interns each year to develop fresh content for their tour app. As you move through the museum, you get to hear different student interns offering unique insight and perspective on the collections.

Wellesley interns at the Davis Museum

Wellesley interns at the Davis Museum

The Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, part of the University of Oklahoma, also features the voices of their student interns. The Yale University Art Gallery also includes their students. Besides the Redoubt exhibition by Matthew Barney, Yale’s other temporary exhibit, A Nation Reflected: Stories in American Glass, is student-curated and features student voices in the app audio guide. If your organization has graduate students in-house conducting research or involved with the collections, these can also be exciting voices to spotlight when you’re creating content for your mobile app

Created By Teens, For Teens

So, you’ve got the seasoned art aficionados, families, and student visitors covered – what more do you need? Don’t forget your teen audiences! Teens can be museum enthusiasts too, and the best way to attract more teen audiences to your museum is to spotlight teen-created content in your tour. The Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art is a shining example of just how much teen voices can contribute. The 2018 Teen Arts Council, a youth development program in Kansas City, arranged an exhibition entitled Flaw(less), with huge success. Teens on the Council were given the opportunity to select works from the Kemper Museum’s permanent collections and curate an exhibition which explored “themes of identity, stereotypes, and perception across cultures.” To go along with this exhibition, the Council also issued a call for submissions on the same topic, inviting local teens to submit work to be featured in a digital-only exhibition which was available through the Kemper Museum smartphone app. In addition to being available via the app, an iPad in the Flaw(less) exhibition gallery displayed the teen-made and teen-curated digital tour. Breeze Richardson, Director of Marketing and Communications, noted that the teen exhibit served as “a way to reach beyond the works in the Permanent Collection to connect with teen artists in the community.” What’s more, it didn’t just attract teen audiences: “it engaged all Museum visitors to explore the themes raised in the exhibition through the eyes of our community’s teen artists.”

The Flaw(less) exhibit at the Kemper Museum

The Flaw(less) exhibit at the Kemper Museum

The ICA Boston is also dedicated to involving teens in content making. They also have a vibrant Teen Arts Council, which offers an opportunity for members to meet with visiting artists to collaborate on creative projects. This sort of programming and approach to content creation can offer great inspiration if you’re a museum looking to tap into the teen demographic, dispel the myth that museums are stuffy places just for grownups, and mobilize to transform your organization into a space by teens, for teens.

Keep in mind that you never have to stick to just one kind of content creation – you can tailor your museum’s tour(s) to the needs of your organization and audience. Many of the organizations we work with offer multiple tours for the same exhibition, from informative, curator-led tours to family-friendly options that will engage adults and little ones alike. Now that the gears are turning, think about how you can mix and match these strategies to best suit your organization!


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