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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.

Saratoga National Historic Park and OnCell-TourSphere Partner to Revamp Mobile App

26 Feb

Redesigned Self-Guided Tour App Offers Visitors Elegant, User-Friendly Experience

OnCell-TourSphere NPS Saratoga National Historic Park Tour App

STILLWATER, N.Y., February 25, 2015–Saratoga National Historic Park has partnered with OnCell-TourSphere to launch their newly redesigned mobile tour app. The two worked closely together to create a custom branded app to achieve the iconic National Park Service look and meet their strict design standards. The self-guided audio tour serves to educate visitors and armchair travelers alike about the pivotal 1777 Battles of Saratoga during the American Revolutionary War.

Saratoga National Historic Park originally launched their first audio tour with OnCell-TourSphere in 2007–a cell phone tour where visitors dialed a phone number to listen to audio content. The tour has been transformed into a unique app in order to offer a clean, user-friendly experience for visitors and to better meet the park’s interpretive goals while providing consistent NPS branding.

“Feedback from visitors using the basic cell tour were always very positive–I can only imagine they will be even more pleased with this new incarnation of the tour” says says Gina Johnson, Chief of Interpretation at Saratoga National Historic Park. “The new app offers a fabulous opportunity to tell our story and a new way for visitors to enjoy the park.”

The app features engaging content for over 30 points of interest, including images and an audio tour of the battlefield created by the Friends of Saratoga Battlefield. Visitors can also listen to the new Wilkinson Trail Hiking Tour, an immersive soundscape with two distinct tours, one for adults and a student-narrated one for children. The Wilkinson Trail tours were created by Park Rangers, volunteers, and interns. Visitors can discover points of interest with location aware alerts and GPS-enabled maps.

Built with OnCell-TourSphere’s flexible app-building platform, the site intends to add more stories and additional park visitor information to the app over time. The mobile web app can be accessed on any web-enabled device at: http://sara.toursphere.com

About Saratoga National Historic Park
Saratoga National Historic Park preserves the site of the 1777 Battles of Saratoga, the “Turning Point of the American Revolution,” which have been called the “most important battle(s) in the last 1000 years.” Located on pastoral bluffs above the Hudson River, the two hotly contested battles fought against the British here ended in an American victory that made independence possible and spread the powerful ideas of democracy throughout the world. First authorized as a New York State historic preserve in 1927, the Battlefield was later made part of the National Park System in 1938.

About OnCell-TourSphere
OnCell-TourSphere provides a full range of mobile tour solutions for museums and cultural destinations. 
With a variety of interactive services such as a DIY app builder, smartphone apps, mobile web apps, audio tours, beacons, and scavenger hunts, OnCell-TourSphere helps organizations become mobile-friendly. As mobile communication experts who are passionate about the arts and education, the OnCell-TourSphere team has worked on over 2,000 projects both in the U.S. and internationally since its inception in 2006.

Media Contacts:
Monica Barndt, OnCell-TourSphere, (585) 419-9844
Gina Johnson, NPS Saratoga National Historic Park, (563) 652-5020

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App Spotlight: Tombstone State Historic Courthouse

18 Feb

The Tombstone State Historic Courthouse in, Tombstone, Arizona, is bringing a new interactive experience to their space by providing visitors with a mobile tour app. The tour allows visitors to access educational content through their mobile devices.

With over 18 stops, the tour takes visitors around the 1882 two-story structure which currently serves as a museum and an ode to the famous frontier silver mining boomtown. The app offers new interpretive content about the exhibits, which paint a vivid picture of the history of Tombstone.

“We have a unique museum and want the world to visit us,” says Julie Vanderdasson, Tombstone Courthouse Manger. “In addition to educating onsite visitors, the app allows those from all over the world to interact with us and gain more knowledge about Tombstone’s history.”

Currently app users and visitors alike can learn about miners, cattlemen and pioneers, see a reproduction of the courtroom and sheriff’s office, and, the staff’s favorite, a replica of the gallows where seven men were hanged.

Built with our flexible app-building platform, the museum intends to add additional content to the app, including audio, video, text, and imagery. “Everyone will have so much content to look forward to, including audio pieces recorded by the non-profit group, the Tombstone Vigilantes,” says Vanderdasson.Tomstonte-Courthouse-Mobile-Tour-App

The mobile web app can be accessed on any web-enabled device at: http://tombstoneCH.toursphere.com
or scan this QR Code

App Spotlight: Des Plaines History Center

21 Nov

Q&A with Shari Caine, Executive Director at the Des Plaines History Center

Founded in 1968, the Des Plaines History Center collects, preserves, and interprets the history of Des Plaines, Illinois and its people and provides access to those resources through exhibits, educational programs, and research facilities. They launched their mobile walking tour in late October, 2014, which includes interpretive audio for 10 historic sites in downtown Des Plaines and features a room-by-room tour of the Kinder House–a 1907 Queen Anne home turned museum.

Q. Why did you decide to create an app for your organization?

A. This was something we’ve been discussing for the past year. We wanted to do something technology-based that was interactive and available to as many people as possible. At first, we talked about working with an app developer, but around the same time we learned about what TourSphere had to offer, and after trying it out, we knew it was the type of app-making tool we could use ourselves.

Q. What are your interpretive goals and what are the benefits for people to use the app?

A. Our goals include increasing attendance, improving the quality of program content through historical interpretation, and increasing awareness of history in the community. We believe that this app will serve as both a great educational tool and a marketing tool, helping to make people more aware of the history of the community and bring in more visitors to the History Center. The proximity of the walking tour to our downtown area will reach many people who are in the area, whether they are residents, commuters, or visitors. The nearby transportation services, including the bus transfer points and the train station, are opportunities for us to promote the app further.

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

A.  First, I would suggest that they determine whether they need someone to create and design the app for them, or if they are willing to do the work themselves. Then, I would recommend they look into all the tools that are available, compare the costs for each option, and take advantage of opportunities to test out the free trial for app-building tools. Finally, they will need to identify their potential audiences and how far they can reach by using the app to bring in new visitors.

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

A. The script was written by our Curator based on information and photographs from our historical archives. The audio was created by a volunteer who works in the IT field and who also has a bit of a background in voice acting and recording. He recorded the digital files from his own studio and delivered them to us. We were fortunate to find someone willing to work with us on a volunteer basis. I would recommend working with a volunteer to keep costs low, but it’s important to interview the person first, and review their demos, in order to assess their level of skill, knowledge, and ability in this type of work.

Q.  How are you planning to market the tour?

A. We held a special event on October 17, planned in conjunction with a re-opening of the second floor of our house museum. There was a special introduction to the walking tour app featured during the event. We also published information about the new app in our newsletter, and we’ve been interviewed by the local newspaper. In addition to the publicity for the special event, we will also distribute a poster and other materials relating to the app itself, with QR codes printed large enough for passersby to see as they are in the area of a building that is featured on the tour. We will promote the tour on a continual basis throughout the community, at other events, and through our Facebook and Twitter feeds, as well as in other community publications. We also just had a group of 44 high-school aged German exchange students visit the History Center, and they participated in a demonstration of the walking tour app.

Des Plaines Mobile Tour App Screenshots and QR code

The Des Plaines mobile tour app can be accessed on any web-enabled device at http://desplainestour.toursphere.com

App Spotlight: Town of Peterborough, New Hampshire

10 Sep

peterborough-720_framedThe town of Peterborough is creating their Explore “Our Town” mobile app in honor of the town’s 275th anniversary.  2014 is a big year for Peterborough as it also coincides with the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812, the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, the 100th anniversary of World War I, and the 75th anniversary of the debut of Thornton Wilder’s American classic, Our Town, which was written while the playwright was in residence at the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough.

The app was developed by local resident and historian Tracy Messer, who researched and wrote the content for the app, with the project being supported by the Town of Peterborough. In this in-depth walking tour, Messer details over 175 sites throughout the downtown area which can be accessed by a GPS-enabled map and an alphabetical list.

The goals of the app were three-fold. “We wanted to build awareness and appreciation for the historical and architectural significance of our downtown, while also focusing on the present by promoting local business and cultural organizations,” says Messer. “We also wanted to encourage our citizens to become more actively involved in our community by providing an innovative and dynamic platform for learning about “Our Town”.

An unexpected feature is an extensive section about Thornton Wilder and his 1938 fictional three-act play about Peterborough, Our Town. The app details the play’s history, connects users to its many stage and screen adaptations, and relates the play to various sites around town.

The wealth of detail found in the app can also be demonstrated by the Interactive Civil War Statute and Memorial Gates sites, both of which allow the user to learn about each veteran listed on the monuments.

Visitor information, including anniversary event details, restaurants, and parking are also included in the app.

As general interest and further funding becomes available, new content may include expanding geographic scope beyond the downtown area, incorporating themed tours, and audio and video enhancements.

 

peterborough

Explore Peterborough’s “Our Town” on any web-enabled device at http://peterborough.toursphere.com.

App Spotlight: Newport Historical Society Native Apps

5 Sep

Q&A with Stacie Parillo, Head of Collections and Manager of Digital Initiatives at Newport Historical Society

Newport App Splash ScreenThe Newport Historical Society originally launched their web app in November of 2012. TourSphere worked closely with the NHS team to develop a custom theme and build an app that launched a historic properties tour with over 40 sites. They have continued to grow their app over time to include special digital exhibitions of unique treasures from their collection, tours by theme, and additional points of interest that include the famed Newport Cliff Walk. The NHS has broadened the accessibility of their app by releasing both a native iOS and Android app.

Q. Can you say a few words about the success of the app?

A. The app represents an exciting new way for the public to access historical content that the NHS has generated, as well as raises local awareness of Newport’s historic significance by providing pride of place for residents. The app replaces the need for museum-loaned devices as visitors can access Explore Historic Newport from their own personal devices. A supplement to our guided tours, users of the app can curate their own experience of historic Newport, from anywhere in the world, any time of day or night. The history of Newport is now accessible in a way that it never was before.

Q. Why did you decide to create new native apps in addition to the web app?

A. We discovered that many people do not know how to use or are not very familiar with technology and many smartphone users are accustomed to going to either the App Store or Google Play to search for and download an app. The native apps were created to help those that were unfamiliar with the concept of a web app to still be able to access the content via the app stores – many smartphone users instinctively jump to the native stores when they think of mobile apps, so we wanted to work with that behavior.

Q. How do the native apps fit into your interpretive goals?

A.  The native apps will increase exposure and access, which will allow the app to do what we hoped from the onset – put Newport history in the palms of peoples’ hands.

Q. Do you have any new content that people familiar with the app may not know about?

A. Because the app is so flexible and accommodating, it is also infinitely expandable. A newer addition to the app is the integration of NHS exhibit content, allowing visitors to learn more about collections items on exhibit as well as the opportunity to virtually visit the exhibit. We have also started generating born-digital exhibits curated by interns that highlight their subject expertise and our collections. Historic sites continue to be added on a routine basis, and soon to be added are oral histories, video, and more exhibit content.

Q. How do you like working with the team at TourSphere and the App Builder?

A. We’ve had a very positive experience building the app with TourSphere – the team has been very responsive to our questions and concerns and have been quick to help us solve any issues that arise. The interface of the CMS is very intuitive, and has been able to be used by several staff members with little training, making it very easy and convenient to continually add content. It was important to us to make the app dynamic and current. We did not see this as a project that would ever be completed. The app would continually grow, never getting stagnant and TourSphere’s CMS allows us to do just that.

Download the native iOS and Android apps to take a tour through historic Newport, RI.

app-availability-appstore

Available on Google Play

Strawbery Banke Museum Mobile App Wins 2014 NEMA Award

6 Aug

The "Listen to the Landscape" app at Strawbery Banke Museum

Congratulations to our friends at the Strawbery Banke Museum! Their app took First Place in the Mobile App category in the New England Museum Association’s 2014 Publication Awards Competition. The app, Listen to the Landscape, was cited for its excellent video interpretation, striking imagery, and overall ease of use.

The annual NEMA competition recognizes excellence in design, production, and effective communication in all aspects of museum publishing.

Located in historic Portsmouth, NH, the Strawbery Banke Museum is an outdoor history museum that allows visitors to experience nearly four centuries of New England life. The site features restored homes, exhibits, historic landscapes and gardens–all of which tell the history of the many generations who settled in the area.

The app features historic imagery and over 40 videos, produced by our partner Audissey Media. Narration by founders, ethnobotanists, historians, volunteers, and role players contribute to this outstanding interpretive museum tour app.

Discover Strawbery Banke on any web-enabled device at http://sbm.toursphere.com.

Discover Strawbery Banke on any web-enabled device at http://sbm.toursphere.com.

App Spotlight: Heritage Museums & Gardens

23 Jul

Q&A with Andrea Early, Marketing and Communications Director

Heritage-Gardens_framed

Big bugs. Windmill. Vintage carousel. Designer labyrinth. The Heritage Museums & Gardens in Sandwich, MA has all the quirk and charm you would expect from a historic museum on Cape Cod. Spanning an expansive 100 acres, it is the largest public garden in Southern New England and celebrates American culture with three galleries that showcase New England folk art, vintage automobiles, and special exhibits. The space is designed to encourage visitors to learn, explore, and discover.

Q. Why did you decide to create a tour app for your organization?

A. We always like to offer information in a variety of formats and apps are now an important part of the mix for our visitors.

Q. What are the goals for the app?

A. It’s a great promotional tool and a convenience for tech-savvy visitors. Plus, our goal is to cut down on the amount of printed maps we give out, helping to preserve the environment and reduce litter in the gardens.

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

A. By its very nature, the app offers more in-depth information than our map does. Visitors can tap on linked sections of the map to get more information about the gardens and exhibits and additional photos. There is general information available, too, like our hours of operation, admission, and membership prices. It’s also a great place to list our sponsors!

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

A. We plan to keep evolving the app and hope to add audio and video at some point in the coming year.

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

A. Don’t put it off. It was amazingly easy to do and it’s a great addition to your marketing and communications tool set.

Q. How did you like working with the App Builder?

A. The App Builder is great–easy to use with great support from the TourSphere staff.

Explore the Heritage Museums & Gardens mobile web app. Type http://heritage.toursphere.com into any web-enabled mobile device.

App Spotlight: Metro Nashville Arts Commission

30 Jun

nashville-artsThe Metro Nashville Arts Commission launched a new mobile web app that allows visitors to discover art throughout the area that comprises the Metro Public Art Collection. The goal of the city’s Public Art program is to integrate artwork into public sites to enhance the cultural identity of the city and to make cultural experiences accessible to every citizen.

The app features over thirty sites, in addition to showcasing upcoming projects that are currently being installed. Users can choose between three distinctive tour paths–walking, bicycling, or a driving tour that takes the user through a series of public artworks located in Nashville neighborhoods affected by the 2010 flood. Interpretation is provided via audio, video, and text.

Users can discover public art based on their location with a GPS-enabled map or search by neighborhood. The app will be updated over time to include new pieces and connect users to community events, galleries, and museums throughout the city.

Explore the ArtsNashville mobile web app. Type in the http://artsnashville.toursphere.com into any web-enabled mobile device

Explore the ArtsNashville mobile web app. Type in the http://artsnashville.toursphere.com into any web-enabled mobile device.

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