Archive | March, 2015

2015 Schedule of Events

31 Mar

Contact us at info@toursphere.com if you are attending any of these events and would like to schedule a dedicated chat about your mobile interpretive strategy. We look forward to seeing you soon!

Museum Association of New York
April 12-14
Corning, NY

Nevada Tourism Commission’s Rural Roundup
April 15-17
Carson City, NV
Join our President Thomas Dunne for the mobile session History as a Hook on April 16th at 10am and 11am. He’ll be co-presenting with Peter Barton, Administrator for the Nevada Division of Museums and History.

American Alliance of Museums
April 26-29
Atlanta, GA
Booth #827

National Association for Interpretation (NAI) International Conference
May 3-7
Montréal, Québec, Canada
Booth #5

Association of Midwest Museums
July 19-22
Cincinnati, OH
We’ll be providing the official mobile app!

Southeastern Museum Conference Annual Meeting
October 12-14
Jacksonville, FL
We’ll be providing the official mobile app!
Join our VP of Market Development Kevin Dooley and a panel of your museum colleagues as they present the session Maximize Your Mobile App. You’ll learn how to leverage your app to drive memberships, fundraise, meet accessibility goals, engage with visitors of all ages, and more.

New England Museum Association
November 4-6
Portland, ME
We’ll be providing the official mobile app!

App Spotlight: The Noah Webster House

30 Mar

Noah-Webster-App-HomeQ&A with Sarah St. Germain, Coordinator of Public Programs at the Noah Webster House

The Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society is located in the restored birthplace and childhood home of Noah Webster. Webster was a national figure known not only for the first American dictionary and the Blue-Backed Speller, but also for being a federalist, an abolitionist, and a cofounder of Amherst College.

Our team worked closely with the Noah Webster House to create a unique custom design and help build a striking multilingual app. The app was designed especially for onsite tablet devices. It features English and Spanish tours, unique content for children, and closed captioned videos to better meet their accessibility goals.

Q. How many visitors do you see a year?

A. Around 4,000 visitors take tours of the house each year.

Q. What were the main goals for creating your app?

A. We wanted to extend our audience and reach out to the deaf, hard of hearing, and Spanish speaking communities. West Hartford, Connecticut is a highly diverse town and we want to be able to offer an experience that just about anyone can enjoy. We would like to expand the tour to other languages in the future.

Noah-Webster-App-RoomQ. How does it enhance the visitor experience?

A. The videos, object information, and narration give a completely different story than we’ve told in the past. It includes videos of an actor playing Noah Webster and using his words to tell the story of his life. Each one is only a couple of minutes long. We also included videos of local experts talking about and demonstrating a variety of things. Hearth cooking, weaving, architecture, room use, etc. And with the videos for kids, by kids, there’s something for every age group. Visitors love to see the kids react to eating colonial foods that are weird to kids now, like black pudding and clams.

Q. How are you using the app?

A. We’re using the app on days when we don’t have a tour guide.

Q. How are onsite devices used in your mobile strategy?

A. We only have four tablets available now, but we’re hoping to add more soon. Each tablet is loaded with the proprietary app and can be used by one or more visitors.

Q. Why did you choose to have onsite devices only, and not a web or native app for download in the app stores?

A. Since the app covers the entire house, we decided not to give away our tour completely. We still want people to come to our site to see the historic house and interact with it and our exhibits. We are planning to post some of the videos and highlights on our website at some point.

Q. Can you tell us a little about how you created the content?

A. It was a lot of trial and error because we had a ton of information and each room narration was originally about 7 minutes. But visitors don’t want to listen to something for that long, so we found different ways to share the info, like the videos, object information, and the paintings.

Q. How did you plan the app?

A. We did a survey in 2011 about how people like to tour a museum. Half wanted a guided tour, while the other half wanted a self-guided tour. We can now cater to just about everyone.

Q. What advice would you give to other organizations who are looking to create an app?

A. Get funding first! It was a tough road to get planning grants, then have to apply and reapply for implementation grants. The funding was definitely why it took so long to finalize the app. If you can layout your entire plan first and talk to the funders along the way, it will save you a lot of time. In the end, the changes we made along the way have made our tour stronger and more applicable to our site.

Q. How are you marketing the app?

A. We’ve sent out press releases and emails, but we also have an exhibit space in Blue Back Square in West Hartford Center. It’s a changing screen that includes info on upcoming programs and events. We have the tablet tour in the mix, so hundreds of people see it every day.

Q. What part of the app is a staff favorite?

A. We LOVE the art! Monica Vachula, the artist behind the imagery, did an amazing job at giving the historic house a more lively look. You can see the room in front of you, then look at the tablet and see what the room might have looked like with the Websters in it. There is a painting for each room, so it’s hard to choose a favorite.

Noah-Webster-House-Tour-Object

 

Though the Noah Webster House tour is not available for download, visit www.noahwebsterhouse.org to learn more about the lexicographer who strongly believed that the United States had a distinctive brand of English with its own idiom, pronunciation, and style, and published the first truly American dictionary in 1783.

App Spotlight: The McCormick Foundation’s Cantigny Park

25 Mar

Q&A with Diane Gutenkauf, Director of the Robert R. McCormick Museum

Cantigny Park is the former estate of Colonel Robert R. McCormick, longtime editor and publisher of the Chicago Tribune. Covering an expansive 500-acres in Wheaton, Illinois, the Colonel left his estate as a gift to the public upon his death in 1955. The park is home to 30 acres of spectacular gardens, the Robert R. McCormick Museum, the First Division Museum, and a 27-hole championship golf course–all of which are part of the Chicago-based McCormick Foundation. Cantigny Park created their first audio tour with OnCell in the spring of 2010 and have recently relaunched it as a multilingual tour app built with our new app builder.

Q. How many visitors do you see a year?

A. Cantigny Park welcomed more than 363,000 visitors in 2014.

Q. What was the main goal for creating your app?

A. Our grounds are vast, so we wanted to give our visitors a self-guided tool to answer a variety of questions about things they encounter here. Our stops include background information on the gardens, historic site information, historic images, seasonal images, and audio.

Q. How does the app enhance the visitor experience?

A. Visitors can learn more about specific points of interest on our property right on the spot. For example, visitors to the rose garden can see an image of the Chicago Peace Rose, a flower discovered in our gardens, even if the plant is not blooming. While walking through the Idea Garden they can listen to tips on how to attract butterflies to their own gardens.

Q. Can you tell us a little about how you created the audio content?

A. Our initial project in 2010 was a simple cell phone tour. We assembled a staff team to decide on initial stops and provide background information to the person chosen to write initial content. Members of each department edited stops related to their areas. We recorded audio in house. Our goal was to keep each stop to under 125 words, although some go as long as 150. This tended to keep the audio to under 1 minute.

With the migration to the new builder, we’ve taken the opportunity to edit some tour stops we thought weren’t working well. Our Client Account Manager at OnCell let us know what percent of a stop most visitors listened to so we knew if most people listened all the way through or not. Longer stops were shortened and we re-recorded the audio. We added a few photos to the OnCell tour and made plans to translate the audio to Spanish. We just finished uploading new Spanish audio and text and are still translating photo captions.

Q. What advice would you give to other organizations who are looking to create a tour?

A. Start by making a logic map of your tour stops. Our stops don’t follow a linear map of our site because we’re an outdoor site where visitors may choose many different paths. Instead we created links between stops of similar content hoping this encourages visitors to seek out other spots on our grounds. While the stops may be located in different areas, we hope this encourages visitors to explore other spaces.

Q. What benefits do you see from migrating your tour to the TourSphere platform?

A. The new platform is very easy to use and allows us to add photo captions, create easy links to other stops, and it was pretty straightforward to offer a Spanish version of our tour.

 

Cantingy Park Mobile Tour

The Cantingy Park mobile tour app can be accessed on any web-enabled device at http://cantignypark.toursphere.com or scan the QR code

App Spotlight: Geneva Historical Society

22 Mar

Q&A with Kerry Lippincott, Executive Director at the Geneva Historical Society

Founded in 1883, the Geneva Historical Society preserves and tells the stories of Geneva, New York through three historic house museums–the Geneva History Museum at the Prouty-Chew House, Rose Hill Mansion, and Johnston House. They launched their first cell phone tour with OnCell in early 2014 and have recently migrated their tour over to our new app builder.

Q. What were the main goals for creating your app?

A. We had two main goals for the app. First, our mission is to preserve and share Geneva’s stories and the app provides us with another tool to share those stories, including the historic photographs from our collection. Second, the app makes it easy and convenient for visitors to explore Geneva–whether its during their visit or after, the app gives them instant access to the tour’s content.

Q. What are the benefits for visitors to use the app?

A. The biggest benefit is the map which allows visitors to navigate around the city. Also, the simple convenience of it–listen, read, or do both; go at your own speed; pick and choose what stops; the ability to return as many times as you want.

Q. What do you see as the biggest benefit of having a tour?

A. It takes the historical society out of the building and into the streets. It’s like having your own personal curator or tour guide–everything is right there in your pocket!

Q. What advice would you give to other organizations who are looking to create a tour?

A. It’s all about the story. Find the places and people that make your location unique and share those stories. Yet, you don’t want to overwhelm visitors, so keep the stories short and simple. Also, if you are an organization with an extensive photo collection, the tour is a great way to share it.

Q. What benefits do you see from migrating your tour to the new platform?

A. The ability to provide more content for the visitor and information about the Geneva Historical Society. Hopefully the tour will pique visitors’ interest in Geneva and its history so they will visit our museums and make return visits to our town.

Q. How did you like working with the app builder?

A. So far so good.  For a non-techie like me, its been easy to use.

Q. Can users expect to see any new content in the upcoming year?

A. For right now we are keeping things simple, so those that are already familiar with our tour can expect to see new photographs with this re-launch. Down the road, the plan is to add some additional stops and perhaps more content through sub-pages. We also intend to customize it more with a calendar of events and implement the social media features available to us in the builder.

Geneva Historical Tour App

The Geneva Historical Society mobile tour app can be accessed on any web-enabled device at http://genevahistory.toursphere.com
or scan the QR code.

New Enhancements to Our App Builder’s Essential Features

9 Mar

Based on much-welcomed client feedback, we’ve made some enhancements to the most popular features available in the TourSphere App Builder.

Custom Surveys
Collect valuable data that relates specifically to your organization’s visitor services and marketing goals. Open up the survey widget in your project and you’ll now see the option to craft your own survey questions and create multiple choice selections.

Google Maps
You now have the ability to color code markers within your GPS maps. Easily distinguish between different tour paths by assigning a specific color group to each. You can even use this new feature to note different themes within your tour, draw attention to local sponsors, or offer additional wayfinding by noting parking or restrooms in the area.

Image Captions
Easily add captions below images in your app. You’ll now see this option in the image editor for all images placed in your tour.

Photo Gallery
Creating new photo galleries and adding more images to your app has never been more intuitive with this feature’s new user interface. Also, you now have the option to add a caption to each image.

Do you have a fantastic idea for a new feature or a way to improve our existing builder? Share them with us! In the meantime, please contact us or your Client Account Manager if you have any questions about these enhancements–we’re here to help!

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