This year the city of Minneapolis hosted the Museum Computer Network conference….as usual, a good time was had by all.
We took a few moments to reflect on some key themes and highlights.
LIZ OGBU, Opening Key Note Speaker
An architect by training, keynote speaker Liz Ogbu does far more than building buildings. At the heart of her address were the ideas of change and people. She spoke about lessons learned on numerous projects – about intentions, design, and desired outcomes – and how the relative failures of these infinitely planned undertakings led to realizations. Despite the best of intentions, the people who do the designing, building, constructing, do not know best. It is the end user, the “community” that knows what it wants and what it needs. The trick is getting them to tell you. It’s a universal message, ever-applicable to the museum world.
BLE Beacons have definitely not lost their appeal – neither in the promise they seem to hold for museums, nor in the conception of them as being a kind of magical way to enhance the mobile tour experience. There are dozens of vendors making them, but they are all essentially the same thing: a small device that emits a signal at adjustable intervals and of variable strength saying “I am here.” With each type of beacon, there are limitations—namely battery life and accuracy—but they seem to serve two main purposes: wayfinding and content pushing, or in museum lingo, content surfacing.
Acoustiguide led a panel about some of our latest beacon-enhanced projects, including our Hunger Games app.
Beacons are here to stay, it seems, and we’ll continue to post about them as we make our own discoveries.
Could SERIAL have been more regularly referenced if Sara Koenig herself had been there? Probably not! The “meteoric” rise in popularity of podcasts has not gone unnoticed by the museum world. And perhaps this format is something that is an organic outgrowth of crowdsourcing or “citizen history." Both seem to have the intent of making the narrative content of audio and multimedia guides feel more personal, more intimate and more connected to the visitor’s own experiences and thoughts. A few specific suggestions to make your tour sound more 'podcasty' included interviewing the experts in their own environment—to make them as comfortable as possible—and having a narrator with a definite point-of-view. Also, keeping the audio a bit ‘messy’ can help a listener feel more connected to the story.
It’s clearly in the zeitgeist, and as it so happens, we’re presenting on this theme at Museums and the Web in April.
The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History presented their AR app, Skin & Bones. As with any pilot project, there were hits and misses. They found that visitors did enjoy the app and spent more time on AR-enhanced objects. But they also identified some technical limitations regarding placement and size of objects.
One of our favorites was walking through the Minneapolis Institute of Arts with members of their digital team. They presented their touch-screen devices which live in the museum’s lounge areas (complete with comfy furniture!). They really engage the visitor rather than rushing them. A member of their team said one key goal was not to make a device that would be everything for everyone. Instead the idea was to create an experience where any visitor who chooses to be engage should feel absolutely delighted with the experience. We love that idea.