Archive | January, 2012

Connectivity for Visitors (Part I)

24 Jan

Connectivity for Visitors (Part 1)

This multi-part series about connectivity will shed some light on the multifaceted challenges you need to overcome to provide a solid Internet connection for all your visitors. Part I is mostly about the general approach, plus a technology overview. The parts after this will talk about specific solutions for common situations.

If you have any specific questions about connectivity that you would like me to write about, please feel free to comment on this article, and we will try to answer your questions.

When talking to museums about connectivity, we often hear that they “have” WiFi and therefore it’s not problem to give all visitors Internet access.This assumption is not necessarily correct. In fact, it’s not correct for most locations that have heavy traffic.

If you happen to work for an institution that sees about 30-100 people daily, don’t bother to read on. You’re probably fine with the WiFi configuration the way it is as long as not all of these people show up at the same time.

For all others, at least spend some time to think about the implications for your organization.

These are the main factors to consider when planning a WiFi network for visitors:


  • Connection speed of the overall broadband connection that comes into the building
  • Number of lines
  • Base load on that connection for the institution’s operations
  • How many visitors need to use the connection at the same time? (Peak & average)


  • Does the content you are providing require a lot streaming (e.g. audio,video)?
  • Are visitors just consuming data (e.g. taking a tour) or are they also uploading data (surveys, gaming activity, etc.)


  • WiFi with password vs. open access point
  • Separation of the internal network (staff/private) from the visitors network (public)


  • Do you have an IT person or a system administrator?
  • How large is your institution (square footage) and what is the general layout of the place (multi-story building, thick walls, underground)?

In the next parts of this series I will talk more about the impact the answers to these questions have on the planning process.

Subscribe to this blog if you don’t want to miss the other parts of this series. Do you have questions about your WiFi connection? Leave a comment and I will try to address specific questions.

Matisse and Chagall in Rockefeller Country Mobile App

17 Jan

In 1954, one of the art world’s great masters lay dead. The fate of his final work, a stained-glass window destined for installation in a small stone church in New York’s countryside, was unknown to the Rockefeller sons who commissioned it as a bold memorial to their beloved mother.

Henri Matisse, in his 80s and ailing, initially declined the commission. Museum of Modern Art director Alfred Barr convinced him to accept…but could he complete it? Later, after the death of Abby’s husband, the great philanthropist John D. Rockefeller, Jr., the sons sought another stained glass memorial, this time from Marc Chagall.

In the heart of New York’s Hudson Valley, the Union Church of Pocantico Hills is home to these works of art and eight other stained glass windows by Chagall. See these amazing windows and learn the incredible story that ties together art and history, life and death, two of the greatest artists of our time.. . and the iconic American family that made it all possible.

This Official App for Historic Hudson Valley provides detailed interpretation of The Union Church of Pocantico Hills and keeps you connected to the latest exhibitions and events.

The designers at TourSphere created a custom theme that allows users to explore the amazing colors and themes in extraordinary detail.

Experience Matisse & Chagall in Rockefeller Country on any smartphone. Go to or use this QR code.

Available for iPhone and iPad

8 Questions with Peter Samis

12 Jan

This interview is part of our “Thought Leader” series, where we get inside the heads of the best and brightest in the museum & technology world. 

Peter Samis
Associate Curator, Interpretation
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

In 1993, Peter served as art historian/content expert for the first CD-ROM on modern art, and then spearheaded the first implementation of multimedia PDAs in an art museum for SFMOMA’s 2002 Points of Departure exhibition. He has served on the board of the New Media Consortium (, as adjunct professor at the University of Lugano, and on the governing councils of two museum-focused collaborative initiatives: Pachyderm 2.0 ( and ArtBabble ( He has recently received a Kress grant to research best practices in museum interpretation–both analog and digital.

TourSphere: What was a stand-out museum/exhibit that caught your interest this year?

Samis: “Death Matters” at the Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam. A visually arresting cross-cultural presentation of rituals, objects, and meaning-making about end of life (and after). It included a riveting set of large scale B&W portraits of individuals before and after their death by Walter Schels and Beate Lakotta, video of a “sky burial” in Tibet, folk coffins shaped like limos, and an array of Bill Viola-like portrait format plasma displays which, when touched, spoke to you casually about various spiritual traditions’ understanding of the afterlife.

TourSphere: What was the coolest use of technology you saw in a museum in 2011?

Samis: Quite possibly the self-portraiture station at the Oakland Museum of California. Situated in the gallery alongside a wall of portraits from the collection, many of them historic, it enables the visitor to sit down, look in a gridded mirror and use his or her finger on a touchscreen to make a self-portrait. You can also look through a gallery of self-portraits—many of them quite accomplished—made by those who visited before you, and if you like you can see any of them re-constructed stroke by stroke. Finally, a rotating array of these visitor-made portraits is included among the painted and drawn collection works in two cleverly disguised frames on the wall beside you.

TourSphere: Did your museum do something this year (or have something coming soon) that you’re proud of?

Samis: We presented mobile interpretation for the vast majority of shows in 2011 on all floors. We also contracted with an outside vendor to provide devices and distribution for a major blockbuster show, The Steins Collect: Matisse, Picasso, and the Parisian Avant Garde. We would never have been able to meet public demand with our small, 200-iPod Touch fleet and our usual distribution staff.

TourSphere: Is there an app or a technology that has changed the way you do things – or made your job easier this year?

Samis: Scrivener. I’m writing a book on best practices in museum interpretation and Scrivener allows me to create the outline and fill it in progressively with notes, essays, word docs, images and links, then re-arrange the parts as I would a mind map.

TourSphere: Apple or Android?

Samis: For myself, Apple. For the public, both. Web app, anyone?

TourSphere: If you had to sum up what you think the theme for museums in 2012 will be in one word, what would your prediction be?

Samis: Participation. Engagement. (I know that’s two.)

TourSphere: What do you see as the biggest challenge for museums in the coming years?

Samis: Connecting an increasingly speedy media culture with the stillness of objects.

TourSphere: Is there something you are passionate about in the museum world that you’d like to wax philosophical about or rant about?

Samis: Finding intelligent ways to democratize meaning-making. The fear of “dumbing down” squelches many visitor-focused initiatives. (We also have a fear of large, readable type. And a fear of looking something less than hyper-intelligent. We have so many fears…)

Thanks, Peter! You’re the man. Follow Peter and his work at the SFMOMA at:

Mountain View Grand Historic Hotel Mobile App

6 Jan

Mountains. Gourmet dining. Snowball fights. Daily farm tours.

This is not your average hotel. Nor is this your average mobile app. The team at Mountain View Grand Resort & Spa used TourSphere to build their very own “Mobile Concierge”.

The app is not only beautiful, it also makes it easy to navigate their 1,300 acre property. The app provides all the info you need to learn about the daily activities (snowball fights, farm tours, mountaineering, etc.) and on-site amenities (5 restaurants, a spa, golf, and more). Book appointments right in the app with one click from your smartphone. You can also take a self-guided historic tour of the property with your phone as your tour guide.

The designers at TourSphere created a Custom Theme that captures the essence of the property beautifully.

Experience The Mountain View Grand app on any smartphone. Go to or use this QR code.

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