Tag Archives: estate tours

App Spotlight: Cranbrook House and Gardens

2 Jun

Cranbrook House and Gardens smartphone app for iOS and Android

Q&A with Eric Franchy, Public Relations Coordinator at Cranbrook House and Gardens

Cranbook House and Gardens, located in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, is the oldest historic manor in metropolitan Detroit and serves as the centerpiece of the Cranbrook Educational Community campus, a National Historic Landmark. Formerly the estate of Ellen Scripps and newspaper mogul George Booth, Cranbrook is an English-Tudor house designed in the American Arts and Crafts style by famed Detroit architect Albert Kahn in 1908. The grounds of the house and gardens spans over 40 acres and sees over 5,000 visitors a year. The app provides an audio tour rich with historic imagery and introduces visitors to the history of Cranbrook prior to guiding them through the gardens.

Q. What was the main goal for creating an app for the Cranbrook House and Gardens?

A. 
The goal for providing an app was to enhance the visitor experience. Our initial idea was to take our garden tour into the virtual sphere and to help our guests navigate the property. Once we began working with the OnCell app builder we realized there was potential for us to create an all-inclusive app.

Q. You launched your app last year and put it on hold for the winter lull. Did you learn any lessons from the previous year and make any adjustments for your spring relaunch?

A. The native app wasn’t live until the end of summer last year; as such, we decided to use the remainder of our tour season last year as a soft-launch for testing purposes. As a result of testing we did make some edits to the app, such as slowing down the duration of our image gallery from light speed to one that allows the user to actually see each image! We changed the design of the app homepage this year to make it more visually inviting and mobile friendly, and also incorporated OnCell’s new ‘Favorites’ function.

Q. How has the app been received by visitors and colleagues?

A. Our app was just announced to the public in late-May, but so far it has been well received. I spoke with two guests yesterday who were visiting from out of state, they told me they were in front of one of our sculptures and wanted to know more about it, so they opened the app and found exactly what they were looking for. The beta team of members and colleagues that helped us test the app during the soft-launch last year were really impressed with the app and all of its features.

A visitor uses the Cranbrook House and Gardens mobile app

Standing above the reflecting pool, a visitor uses the Cranbrook House and Gardens mobile app to tour the gardens.

Q. How does your organization promote the app and encourage its use?

A. We promote the app and encourage its use through a press release announcement to media, email announcement to the public, inclusion on our website, social media postings, onsite signage, inclusion in our Visitor Guide & Map brochures, and informational rack cards.

Q. The app looks great–nicely curated with both modern and archival images along with wayfinding info. How long did it take your team to gather the content and publish your app?

A. Thank you! It took us about two months of researching archival databases, scripts, and other information to gather the tour content, and another one to two months to design the app. The biggest challenge was trimming all of the content gathered into an amount acceptable for display on a mobile device; Cranbrook has such a rich history!

Q. Do you have advice for other orgs that may be interested in developing an app?

A. Have fun with it, be creative, and think about how you want the app to be structured before you begin building pages.

Q. What are the next steps in your organization’s visitor engagement strategy?

A. We plan to continue to find creative ways for the app to improve visitor engagement. In addition to the app tours, we may add one or a few scavenger hunts of varying difficulty. New technologies such as push notifications that could give us the possibility of alerting users of what’s in bloom each week are currently being explored as well.

The Cranbrook House and Gardens smartphone app features interpretive audio, video, and image galleries, along with an interactive map and visitor info such as events and admission. It is available for download on iOS in the App Store and Android in Google Play. Access the web app on any web-enabled device at http://cranbrookhouseandgardens.toursphere.com

3 Museums with Award-Winning Apps!

26 Jun

It’s been a great year so far for our clients!

The Metropolitan Museum of Art won a prestigious 2013 MUSE Award from the American Association of Museums last month — in the  Games and Augmented Reality category. Built on the TourSphere mobile platform, and co-produced with Green Door Labs, Murder at the Met: An American Art Mystery is a mobile detective game . Visitors use their smartphone to explore museum objects and interview suspects and witnesses in order to solve the murder of Virgine Gautreau, the woman immortalized in Jean Singer Sargent’s masterpiece Madame X.

Gore Place and the deCordova Sculpture Park & Museum took First Place and Honorable Mention, respectively, for Best Mobile App at the 2013 New England Museum Association Awards. Both apps are outdoor self-guided GPS tours that offer detailed interpretations of their grounds.

The American Association for State & Local History also awarded the Gore Place app with a 2013 Award of Merit.

We’re always honored to work with such fantastic clients – congratulations from all of us here at TourSphere!

Award Winners

Free Case Study: the Edsel Ford House Smartphone App

20 Jun

Did you miss our webinar on Mobile Apps in Historic Homes? Don’t fret!

In partnership with the Edsel & Eleanor Ford House, we’ve just released a new white paper that explains their award-winning app project – from conception to launch and evaluation.

Go ahead and download it – and send it to your friends and colleagues.

Click here to download the Ford House Mobile App: Case Study.ford house white paper

Exploring Estates Around New England: 5 Venues to Visit This Season

13 Nov

Around New England, there is a plethora of historic homes, estates and museums to check out for locals and tourists alike. At TourSphere, we love exploring both the well-known and hidden gems around our area. Today, we’ve decided to share some of our favorite estates around New England, picked out especially for you to enjoy during the upcoming holiday season!

Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House

A cozy little “estate”, just outside of Boston, MA, the Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House is the setting for the well-known novel, Little Women. Visit this historical venue, where Louisa May Alcott both wrote and used as a setting for her book. When walking through the rooms, you’ll find the majority of furnishings and setting just as it was when the Alcott family lived there in the 1800s, complete with the desk that Louisa wrote at. If you visit during the month of December, they also offer a holiday program on the weekends.

Phillips House

Amidst the Witch Museums and tourist landmarks in Salem, MA stands a grand historic home on Chestnut Street. The Phillips House is a true New England style estate, built by Captain Nathaniel West in 1821. When you visit, you’ll find  a unique collection of early American antiques, as well as Hawaiian and Polynesian artifacts. You can also enjoy a Thanksgiving celebration with the Phillips Family on November 15th.

Victoria Mansion

If you are heading up North in Maine, be sure to look up the Victoria Mansion in Portland. A summer home to Ruggles Sylvester Morse, the estate was built in 1860 and is also known as the Morse-Libby House. Considered as one of the most splendid examples of pre-Civil War architecture, the opulent estate is decorated to the nines with lavish, intricate details throughout.

 

 

Mark Twain House

A well-known household name, Mark Twain is an American icon. However, most New Englanders don’t realize that his house is right in Hartford, CT.  Visitors can peruse the impressive home, where Mark Twain and his family lived from 1874-1891 and Twain wrote some of his most famous works including Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Prince and The Pauper and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. The House’s Annual Holiday House Tour takes place on Sunday, December 2nd, so be sure to visit this destination.

 

The Rocks Estate

And now that we’re in the spirit of the holidays, here’s another one of our favorite estates to visit during the season! Located in Bethlehem, NH, The Rocks Estate is best known as a Christmas tree farm. But, when you are there picking out your tree, don’t forget to marvel at the rest of the 1,400 acre estate. Walk around the well-kept trails, learn how maple syrup is made, and enjoy sights of the preserved wildlife around the grounds. During the holidays, there is a plethora of festive activities to partake in.

 

We hope you’ll take some time and enjoy a few of our favorite estates around New England! Happy travels!

Getting Spooky: 10 Unique Halloween Tours from Around the Country

28 Sep

At TourSphere. we’re big proponents of any kind of tour. Whether it’s in-person guides leading you through exhibits or one of our mobile apps giving you the low-down on little-known city tourist attractions, tours are a great way to get the most from your visit anywhere. And in autumn, when the air is crisp and the nights longer, there’s no better way type of tour to try than one that incorporates ghosts, ghost stories and other haunted happenings.

We’ve compiled a list of our top 10 picks for Halloween tours across the country. Think we’re missing one? Add it in the comments!

  • Tour Witch City: We’d be remiss not to start in our very own backyard with “The Witch City.” Salem, MA was made famous by the Salem Witch Trials in the 1600s. More than 300 years later, Salem has stayed rooted in its history with a variety of haunted and witch-related attractions. For more of a hands-on experience, check out Spellbound Tours, which combines the history of the Salem Witch Trials with ghost hunting.
  • Ghosts and Gimlets: Enjoy a drink or two with your paranormal sightings on this tour of Savannah, GA’s haunted pubs. The walking tour covers 300 years of history, ghosts and pirates and helps to explain why Savannah is considered the most haunted city in America.
  • Civil War Ghosts: There are ghost sightings, and there are historical ghost sightings. If the latter is your thing, check out Gettysburg Ghost Tours, which takes you through “No Man’s Land” to the most haunted hallways and buildings in this famous Civil War battlefield.
  • Eat, Drink & Be Scary: The Ghost Hunt at the winery Marjim Manor in Appleton, NY provides hungry participants with appetizers, a wine tasting and two glasses of wine–all the better to see ghosts. The Buffalo Paranormal Detectors bring in ghost detection equipment and leads the group through the estate to see what they can find for Halloween inspiration.
  • Hotel Haunts: The Brown Palace Hotel in Denver, CO might be better for a good scare than a good night’s sleep. Known as one of the nation’s most haunted hotels, falling liquor bottles, the roaming ghost of the hotel’s founder and mysterious switchboard calls are all part of the tales you’ll hear.
  • Redrum for Real: If you find yourself in Estes Park, CO, around Halloween, it’s time to pay homage to the master of horror himself, Stephen King. Tour the Stanley Hotel–King stayed in Room #217 when writing The Shining and based his horrifying tale on the location. The tour also covers ghost stories, haunted rooms, and a spooky underground tunnel.
  • America’s Glitziest Ghosts: Las Vegas isn’t necessarily the first place that comes to mind for Halloween, but Haunted Vegas Tours shows the haunted underbelly of a city known best for showgirls and gambling. Check out the “Motel of Death,” where a number of celebrities have died , and the home of one stubborn Vegas spirit, who refuses to leave despite numerous attempts at exorcism.
  • Terror in Texas: Thanks to its Wild West history, Galveston, TX has many tales of murder, revenge, passion and more–many of which have resulted in unsettled spirits hanging around even today. The tour is based on eye-witness account of paranormal activities and incorporates spine-chilling ghost stories.
  • Haunted Mansion: A tour of the beautiful Biltmore estate is a must-do in Asheville, NC, but their latest offering puts the bizarre past of the Biltmore Village on display for those who love a little haunting with their history. Learn about serial killers, curses and a kangaroo that arrived from another dimension in this unique Halloween tour.
  • San Diego Spirits: Considered the most haunted city in the West, San Diego boasts creepy graveyards, haunted mansions, and The Travel Channel’s “Most Haunted Site in America” (The Whaley House). Enjoy racy, historical tours with a haunted twist on the Haunted San Diego Tour.

How do you get spooked in your hometown? Share your picks for the best ghost tours in our comments section!

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