Tag Archives: Historic Houses

App Spotlight: Cabot’s Pueblo Museum

8 Sep

Self-Guided Tour Shares the Story of Coachella Valley Pioneer Cabot Yerxa

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Cabot’s Pueblo Museum preserves the homestead of visionary explorer, artist, and Mason Cabot Yerxa, whose discovery of two desert aquifers provides fresh water to California’s Coachella Valley and gave rise to the area’s hot springs resorts. After 24 years of construction, which began in 1941, Yerxa completed his 35-room pueblo, which was donated to the City of Desert Hot Springs after his death. The site is operated as a heritage museum and share artifacts of his travels, art, and collection of Native American artistry.

The newly launched Cabot’s Pueblo Museum audio tour shares the story of the adventurous pioneer and his self-built Hopi-inspired home.  The tour takes museum visitors around the structures found on the site’s 5 acres, on which the historic home sits. The app offers new interpretive content about these structures, such as the barn, tool house, and studio house, and prompts visitors to think about how they were created with locally sourced, repurposed materials.

“We have little interpretative material for the grounds and using the app will provide visitors with a stronger understanding of Cabot and simpler times in the Coachella Valley,” says Irene Rodriguez, Executive Director of Cabot’s Pueblo Museum. “Hopefully, the information found in the app will also spark greater interest and encourage users to take a guided tour, which is the only way to see the interior of the Pueblo.”

The content for the app is an expansion of an existing grounds brochure, with the audio tour scripted and recorded by a staff tour guide. The museum is working on a new exhibition in a space that has been closed for over 40 years. As this exhibition unfurls, additional content for the audio tour will be added to the app using OnCell’s flexible app-building platform.

“Our process is to start small and grow. We’re excited to use the app as a tool to enhance the visitor experience and add more content over time,” says Rodriguez.

Cabot's Pueblo Museum Brochure Image

The museum uses brochures to promote the app

The museum promotes their app with brochures and signs for tour stops. The tour can be accessed by a dial in tour number or the mobile web app, which uses a keypad.

Listen to their audio tour with their mobile app at: cabotsmuseum.oncell.com

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: 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

Going Mobile in Historic Homes

21 Jun

Did you miss our webinar with Chris Shires, Director of Interpretation and Programs at the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House? Watch it below or download and share with your colleagues.

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

History and Technology: A Perfect Marriage

16 Nov

Newport, Rhode Island is known as an iconic location filled with historical nods to the past, through the mansions lining the coast, historic meeting houses and buildings downtown, as well as its role in the American Revolution. The Newport Historical Society has married its love and dedication to history, with technology, by providing visitors a TourSphere mobile app to explore Historic Newport.

The Newport Historical Society is dedicated to collecting, preserving and sharing items from Newport’s past. Their mobile app allows the public to peruse news, events, offerings and resources and take a step back in time. Guests can also virtually visit the Museum and Gift Shop through their phone. The app, sponsored by a local Real Estate Company, is a great example of monetizing a mobile app and providing a local company great exposure to their target audience. We’ve got some more helpful tips on this topic here.

This season, The Newport Historical Society has lots to talk about! December 1st marks the beginning of the Holiday season, with their Open House event, and proceeding Holiday Lantern Tours. Next week, the Newport Mansions also debut their holiday look, with festive decorations that are not to be missed. So, first check out the mobile app and then plan your visit to historical Newport this season!

To view the Mobile Tour of The Newport Historical Society visit http://newport.toursphere.com or scan this QR code with your smartphone.

To view the Mobile Tour of The Newport Historical Society visit http://newport.toursphere.com or scan this QR code with your smartphone.

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!

Thoreau Farm Goes Mobile

3 Jul

Henry David Thoreau, as gifted as he was, certainly never expected his family farm to be the base for a smartphone app. The farm now has a full mobile tour that teaches visitors about the property, Thoreau and his family.

Being almost a century older than Thoreau himself, the farm is full of history and stories that are now easily accessible to visitors. The app also features historic pictures of the farm, giving an accurate representation of how it has changed over the years.  We’re impressed with how much has stayed the same (and a mobile guide is a great way to leave the property itself undisturbed)!

To view the Mobile Tour of the Thoreau Farm visit http://thoreau.toursphere.com/ or scan this QR code with your smartphone.

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 mountainviewgrand.toursphere.com or use this QR code.

The Edsel & Eleanor Ford House Mobile Tour App

30 Aug

The Edsel & Eleanor Ford House, located in Gross Pointe Shores, Michigan, have published an awesome web app and iPhone app. The web app works on any mobile device with a full Internet browser – just go to fordhouse.toursphere.com or scan the QR code at the bottom of this post.

We loved writing the script, creating the videos, and designing the app. But the most amazing thing about this app, in my opinion, is its use of the archival video footage of the Ford family. You can stand at the swimming pool, for example, and on your smartphone you can see the Ford children splashing in the pool. It’s almost like they are right there, in front of you. Until someone invents a time machine, this is about as close as you can get to going back time.

This app received a 2011 Leadership in History Award from the American Association of State & Local History.

We’ll be doing a special webinar in the near future with Christopher Shires, Director of Interpretation at the Ford House, where he will share his experience of creating an app, as well as lessons learned. Stay tuned!

 

Experience The Ford House Tour on any smartphone. Go to fordhouse.toursphere.com or use this QR code.

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