Q&A with Jennifer White-Dobbs, Director of Education
The Connecticut River Museum, in historic Essex, CT, is dedicated to the preservation and celebration of the cultural and natural heritage of the Connecticut River and its valley. It plays an important role in collecting and protecting manuscripts, books, art, and artifacts of regional significance. This app details the historic 1814 Raid by the British on Essex, and is one of many ways offered by the museum to interact with the story, allowing users to discover details of the event. The app was built to complement their newly redesigned British Raid on Essex exhibit.
The tour takes the user across Essex Village and follows two children, Austin and Emma, as they experience the raid first hand. In an effort to bring more interactivity to the experience, most of the sites on the tour encourage users to participate in activities along the way. The Connecticut River Museum used the TourSphere App Builder to build their own app and created the content in-house by creatively utilizing their resources. Curator Amy Trout, coordinator of all the Battlesite research, wrote the script. They enlisted one of their trustees, who does voiceover work, to help with audio production and editing, and brought in children of employees to narrate.
Q: What are your interpretive goals for the Battlesite Essex project and what are the benefits for visitors to use the app?
A: We wanted to raise awareness and understanding of the April 8, 1814 event, and through that, emphasize the fact that history happens here (and everywhere!) This project offers a way for visitors to take the information in the museum’s exhibit and bring it out into the landscape, explore Essex Village, and retrace the event along the way–it’s something fun for visitors to do together as family and friends.
Q: What inspired you to have the tour experience seen through children’s eyes?
A: We wanted to emphasize this as an activity for families and inter-generational groups of visitors. The intent was to keep the story fairly basic and not be overly academic. We already have the exhibit which offers the greater details and analysis, so using the kids as narrators kept it fresh and upbeat.
Q: What advice would you give to other organizations who are looking to create an app?
1. Make sure you offer information in layers to engage a variety of users.
2. Walk the route a lot (even if you think you know it).
3. Less can be more (if you have lots of info to share, combine the tour with an exhibit, printed guide, website or other way for folks to get the info).
4. Work as a team, different perspectives are key in a project like this because users will come at your product from different places.
Q: How did you like working with the App Builder?
A: The App Builder was very easy to use. The video tutorials and staff training session addressed almost all the areas that could have been issues. Everyone was great at answering questions promptly when things cropped up. The App Builder was actually fun to work with and being able to preview as you went was very handy.
For more on info on producing your own content in-house check out our do-it-yourself series.