Tag Archives: Museums Mobile

App Spotlight: Connecticut River Museum’s April 8, 1814 British Raid Walking Tour

2 Jun

Q&A with Jennifer White-Dobbs, Director of Education

Scan the QR code to access the audio tour app!

Scan the QR code to experience the audio tour app!

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.

April 8, 1814 - The British Raid on Essex mobile audio tour app. To access the tour scan the QR Code above or type http://connecticutrivermuseum.toursphere.com into your web-enabled device

April 8, 1814 – The British Raid on Essex mobile audio tour app. To access the tour scan the QR Code above or type http://connecticutrivermuseum.toursphere.com into your web-enabled device

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

Mobile Year in Review: Lessons Learned in Mobile in 2012

31 Dec

As 2012 draws to a close, many of us will be reflecting on what we’ve learned over the past year. While perhaps some reflections will be personal or professional, here at TourSphere, we want to take a minute to review the year in mobile. So we’ve tapped our team to present to you the lessons we’ve learned in the mobile space this year.

Mobile must be a part of your strategy.
– Juliet Devries, VP of Community Relations

2012 was the year that a mobile component to your marketing strategy went from being “nice to have” to “necessary.” Even Facebook learned that the lack of a solid mobile strategy can do a number on your company’s value.

A Nielsen study released in February 2012 revealed that nearly half of the cell phones in the US are smartphones, up 38% over the same statistic for 2011. Microsoft Tag predicts that mobile usage will overtake desktop usage by 2014.

These statistics confirm what all of us already knew from our own day-to-day usage: if you don’t have a mobile presence and if that presence doesn’t make it easy for a user to access your information on their device, you’re losing out on a huge chunk of your audience.

The mobile market will become increasingly fragmented, with more choices for consumers.
– Rob Pyles, CEO


In the beginning, mobile developers had only to worry about Apple and Android.

Today, the options for mobile devices expand on what feels like a daily basis. From smartphones to tablets, new technology like the Microsoft Surface gives consumers the power of choice and gives developers the headache of having to add yet another platform to their list. A recent Nielsen study showed that Android,  which “dominates” the market, still has less than a 50% market share when it comes to smartphones.

Developing across multiple platforms is going to be increasingly important as we enter 2013. Web apps like those created on TourSphere Builder will provide a flexible, more nimble and more economical option than developing native apps.

You need a long-term mobile strategy, not just an app.
– Clayton Jones, TourSphere Mobile Advisor

In 2011, companies were building apps like crazy. In 2012, we started thinking about other aspects of the mobile strategy. Because so many people are accessing your company or organization’s information by mobile device, it’s essential that an entire strategy take place around the mobile medium, not just a single app, and that that strategy is as flexible as the rest of your marketing plan. We began to see companies turn to TourSphere to help with this flexibility, because web apps can be easily managed and changed unlike native apps.

We began to see that mobile goes beyond simply an app, into location-based services that help with targeted marketing, to websites optimized for mobile devices to coupons delivered by mobile device. An entire strategy around how your audience uses mobile is essential for 2013.  Analytics and data on how visitors are using your app is critical to evaluating, developing and adjusting your mobile strategy.
Tell us: What do you think was the biggest lesson about mobile in 2012, or the biggest mobile story of the year?

App Spotlight: Virginia Air & Space Center

14 Dec

34318154b513a1d053ba071710a8b9d54d30c69b1ffb259d5e97f1fc.tiff.473x313_q85The Hampton Convention & Visitor Bureau in Hampton, VA has created a unique app package that allows visitors to the city to download a package of six tours that will guide them through the city. Featuring tours of neighborhoods and universities, the comprehensive tours give an insider’s view on the city. But perhaps one of the most popular sites in Hampton is the Virginia Air & Space Center, and accordingly the app for the site gives visitors a dynamic virtual tour through the museum, exhibit by exhibit.

Opening with an exciting ride over the clouds, the Virginia Air & Space Center App guides visitors through the museum with video and audio that gives background on each exhibit. The narrator leads the user through the museum with audio and visual cues, ensuring that the visitor doesn’t miss any important highlights. With 20 aircraft and 10 spacecraft in the center, there’s lots to see.

The app highlights such aviation milestones as the Tuskegee Airmen, the first black military airmen, including video interviews with some of the airmen themselves, providing living encounters of their time in combat. Or, get an up-close look at the F-4E Phantom II while listening to a history of its use and a rundown of how the aircraft is used.

Check out the space capsule that carried astronauts to the moon and back…and hear from one of the astronauts who was on the flight. You can even take a virtual tour of Mars.

The Virginia Air & Space Center is a great example of using multimedia–video and audio–to create a virtual tour that simulates an in-person tour at the museum and helps engage the visitor by providing fascinating background information and ensuring they don’t miss any important details in the museum.

To view the Virginia Air & Space Center App, visit http://hampton.toursphere.com/en/virginia-air-space-center-22607.html or scan this QR code with your smartphone.

To view the Virginia Air & Space Center App, visit http://hampton.toursphere.com/en/virginia-air-space-center-22607.html or scan this QR code with your smartphone.

Transform a Tablet into a Kiosk – in a Snap!

11 Dec


Museums, hotels, and all kinds of destinations have long-recognized the value of kiosks.  Kiosks are great ways to engage visitors, provide and collect information quickly, offer maps and event info and otherwise cut-down on common questions which can bog down staff members.

The hold-up for most organizations has been cost.  Plain and simple.  Kiosks and software are pricey and take a lot of time to maintain. Not anymore!! We’re excited to say that having a touchscreen kiosk just got waaay easier and cheaper.

Yes, TourSphere is now offering iPad touchscreen kiosks! You can use our app builder to build one yourself (checkout the one Toledo Museum of Art did recently) or we can build it for you, fast and easy.

Using TourSphere to build your kiosk app decreases the costs of kiosks dramatically, for both the software and the hardware – as much as 85%. It also increases the speed of deployment.  You can literally have a functioning kiosk installed at your site within a couple of days.

Kiosk app at the Toledo Museum of Art. Photo by Andrew Weber.

Kiosk app at the Toledo Museum of Art. Photo by Andrew Weber.

There are just two simple things you’ll need to launch your kiosk:

1. The Hardware

Obviously you will need a tablet.  Apple’s iPads are the most popular and offer some great features for kiosks (such as “Guider User Mode” which allows you to “lock” your clients in to an app) but there are cheaper tablets out there if your budget is really tight.  Whichever device you choose you will also need a way to mount and secure it so that it cannot walk away.  Luckily there are dozens of options out there – locking, blocking the power and home button, allowing for continuous power, etc… (we have some favorites if you want to chat).

2. The Software

This is the easy part!  TourSphere specializes in visitor-based apps.  Our apps allow organizations to collect data, provide real-time, remote updates, provide interactive maps, stream audio and video and much more. Clients have built a custom app in TourSphere in as little as 3 days. To see for yourself create a free account and play around with it.

Here’s a couple of ideas on how organizations can use TourSphere kiosk apps:

Exhibits: You can build a kiosk app for an exhibit, then when a new exhibit comes into town, you can re-use the same hardware (the iPads) and simply update the app itself with the new content. Voila! Your new exhibit features touchscreen kiosks!

Photo by Andrew Weber.

Photo by Andrew Weber.

Hotels: You can place a kiosk in your lobby which provides an interactive overview of the entire property.  Guests can quickly orient themselves with the property amenities, view event schedules, log complaints or comments and see area info.  In short, they can access the most common questions which your concierge probably gets tired of answering.

Interested in creating a kiosk app? Just create a free account and get started building. If you’re thinking about touchscreen kiosks or iPad apps but don’t quite have the idea hammered out or aren’t sure how to start, drop us a line and we’d love to chat about it.

Have you worked with kiosks in the past? What do you wish was easier – or cheaper – about the process?


The App “Made in Hollywood”

8 Nov

The use of TourSphere’s technology is just about endless in our imagination – we see an unlimited number of uses for our mobile app technology. From different venues and tours, additional features, and a multitude of uses, we believe that technology is always evolving just like TourSphere. It’s exciting to us when we see our clients have a similar vision and utilize their customized mobile app in a new and different way!

Today, we are very excited to present a unique use of a museum app. The Toledo Museum of Art has built their mobile app through TourSphere, and are showcasing the app in kiosks throughout the museum. As visitors walk from display to display, they are greeted by mounted iPads, providing more insight around the collection.

Currently used in the “Made in Hollywood: Photographs from the John Kobal Foundation” exhibit, running through January 2013, the TourSphere app welcomes visitors as they enter the gallery and presents context around the photos of Hollywood. This exhibit includes over 90 prints from the most important photographers of the Golden Age. As you walk through the images of people like Marilyn Monroe, Clark Gable and others, you can almost hear them speaking fromt he past through iPads.

Bringing together old world Hollywood with the latest cutting edge technology, visitors get the chance to experience history at its finest. We applaud The Toledo Museum of Art on their clever use of their mobile app and look forward to visiting to see technology in action, at it’s best.  It’s clear that this exhibit was meant for the silver screen!

All photos courtesy of Andrew Weber.

New Study Shows Museums Offering More Mobile Experiences

5 Nov

“His house is like a museum. It’s very beautiful and very cold, and you’re not allowed to touch anything.” – Matthew Broderick, in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

People sometimes think of museums the way Ferris Bueller described them. But as you and I know, that’s changing! Especially when museums adopt mobile technology to create interactive apps that enhance the visitor experience.

Check out the recent survey by the American Alliance of Museums in the U.S. and Museums Association in the U.K. It’s predicted that by 2013, there will be two billion smartphones worldwide. Many smartphone users, of course, will visit museums – and they want a way to interact with exhibits on their devices.

The survey found the biggest motivation for most “mobile museums” is visitor engagement. That might mean guiding the visitor though the museum via a custom map or providing them with an interactive tour with multimedia features like photos, videos and audio.

Many museums may have shied away from creating a mobile experience for their visitors because:

1. They thought it would be too expensive

2. They thought it would require serious technological expertise

In the past, yep – those two reasons were true. But not anymore. With do-it-yourself app platforms now available like TourSphere, museums can build custom mobile apps that work on any smartphone or tablet (iPhone, iPad, Android, etc.).

Many museums have already employed this technology with great results. New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art teamed up with TourSphere and Green Door Labs to create an interactive mobile game that leads visitors on a murder mystery through the museum. The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center’s mobile app is an emotional journey through the museum and the struggle for freedom. And the Boston-area based Museum of Bad Art is using its new TourSphere mobile app to showcase its pieces for its tens of thousands of Facebook fans who are based around the world.

As museums continue to adopt mobile technology and create interesting, and sometimes unexpected, visitor experiences, Ferris Bueller’s hilarious statement will itself seem like a thing of the past.

Explore the Mary Baker Eddy Library’s 3-story Globe on Your Smartphone

26 Oct

Mary Baker Eddy founded the Christian Science system of religious thought in the late 1800s and today, her life’s work is celebrated at the Mary Baker Eddy Library. This multi-use facility is dedicated to educating the public about Eddy’s life and ideas. The museum, research center and lending library opened in 2002 and now a TourSphere app enhances the public’s experience with the Library.

For those who can’t make it to the Mary Baker Eddy Library in downtown Boston, there are two virtual tours (with many more to come). A short, yet information-packed video brings to life the role children played in the history and founding of the Christian Science Church in Boston. Complete with historic photos, period details and artifacts, the video captures what life was like for the “busy bee” children involved in the creation of the Mother’s Room at the original Christian Science Church in Boston.

The other exhibit allows virtual visitors to explore Mary Baker Eddy’s study, where she worked tirelessly during her life. One part of the virtual tour lets you learn more about the objects found in the study by clicking on them for a detailed photo and explanation of their purpose. The video that accompanies this exhibit explores Mary Baker Eddy’s life as an avid writer and voracious reader.

Whether visitors are planning a visit to the Mary Baker Eddy Library or just want to learn more about this historic site, the TourSphere app brings it to life.

To view the mobile tour of the Mary Baker Eddy Library, visit http://mbelibrary.toursphere.com or scan this QR code with your smartphone.

To view the mobile tour of the Mary Baker Eddy Library, visit http://mbelibrary.toursphere.com
or scan this QR code with your smartphone.

The Freedom Center’s Richard Cooper on the Future of Museums and the Role Technology Will Play

22 Oct

This interview is part of our Thought Leader” series, where we get inside the heads of the best and brightest in the museum & technology world.

Richard Cooper

Manager of Interpretive Services

Richard C. Cooper is the Manager of Interpretive Services at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center where he oversees the development and presentation of the overall interpretive, educational strategies used with the general public in the exhibit galleries to include guided tours, demonstrations, self-guided activities, and first & third-person interpretation. He also actively works with the Exhibits and Collections departments to develop the interpretation of traveling exhibitions. Rich came to the Freedom Center in the capacity of Interpretive Services Coordinator where he was in charge of maintaining the day-to-day operations of the Interpretive Services program within the museum’s 158,000 square foot facility that opened in 2004. Rich received his B.A. in American History from the University of Cincinnati.  He is currently attending Northern Kentucky University to obtain a Masters Degree in Public History.

TourSphere: What was a stand-out museum/exhibit that caught your interest this year?

Rich: Wow…There so many outstanding museums out there today that I have visited this year.  But, if I have to pick…I will settle for two – the Indiana Historical Society in Indianapolis, Indiana and the City Museum in St. Louis, Missouri.  The Indiana Historical Society has become outstanding at bringing history to life in a whole new way in their experiences called You Are There.  In these experiences they recreate historical pictures from Indiana’s past and allow for visitors to step into those scenes.  The City Museum is probably one of the most exciting museums I have ever visited.  Both young and old have the chance to crawl through amazing caves, and see creative pieces of recycled/repurposed architectural and industrial objects within their collection.  Check out this Museum Minute post to see a blog written by a colleague of mine, Jamie Glavic (@MuseumMinute) and videos I created from inside the City Museum.

TourSphere: What was the coolest use of technology you saw in a museum recently?

Rich: I would have to say MOMA Unadulterated at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.  They created a wonderful tour where children actually interpret art through their eyes.  In the field of interpretation, we are always searching and creating new ways for visitors to become participants in the story.  This new tour having children interpret the art through their eyes takes this idea of visitor participation to a whole new level for the field.

TourSphere: Did your museum do something this year(or have something coming up soon) that you are especially proud of/ excited about?

Rich: This summer the Freedom Center opened a terrific changing exhibition called Music of Change: Hymns, Blues, & Rock.  The exhibition has challenged and inspired visitors to recognize the power of music and how it is used in their own lives to express camaraderie in connection with social movements and attitudes.  The exhibition was created by the Freedom Center Curator, Dina Bailey (@NURFCDina) and graduate students at Northern Kentucky University.  The exhibition is open to the public until September 22, 2012.  The Freedom Center mobile tour app available via web app and in the Apple App store has a selection of music that helps to bring Music of Change to life for visitors as they travel through the exhibition.

TourSphere: Is there an app or a technology that has changed the way you do things or made your job easier this year?

Rich: ….Twitter.  I have to admit, that I am fairly new to Twitter.  But it is incredible.  It has enabled me to expand the interpretation of the Freedom Center.  It has also allowed for me to interact with other professionals in weekly conversations around numerous topic in the museum and education fields.  I have made it a personal goal to tweet about a major topic that relates to the mission of the Freedom Center on a daily basis.

TourSphere: Apple or Android (or other)?

Rich: I am absolutely an Apple person.  I have everything from an iMac, iPhone, iPad, to a MacBook Pro in my collection of electronics.  I think Apple has done a wonderful job of linking all their devices through iCloud.  It makes it easier to start a project on one device and quickly pick it up on another device and continue the project where you left off.  However, I still love my basic Kindle too.

TourSphere: If you had to sum up what you think the theme for museums in 2012 will be in one word, what would your prediction be?

Rich: I would have to go with “Participatory.”  I think the field is continuing to find new ways for visitors both inside and beyond the walls of institutions to fully participant with our museums.  You can see this throughout the field as more museums are developing apps, learning how to utilize social media, allowing for visitors and communities to create exhibits, employing radical trust, and broadening our reach to include more diversity in the themes we cover.   Creating these types of experiences will allow for more audiences both young and old from diverse backgrounds to feel truly a part of our great museums.

TourSphere: What do you see as the biggest challenge for museums in the coming years?

Rich: Great Question.  I would say that financial stability will remain a major topic throughout the field.  I think this will also lead to more museums talking about “mergers.”  The Freedom Center and the Cincinnati Museum Center just announced the merger of our two great institutions to help strengthen the financial stability of both institutions.  This model could be used by other museums across the nation as budgets, and funding continue to tighten over the next couple of years.

TourSphere: Is there something you are passionate about in the museum world that you would like to wax philosophical about or rant about? 

Rich: The only thing I might rant about is that I highly encourage everyone to remember that interpretation is the key.  Without good interpretation, a project will not be as successful as it could be.  You could have the coolest piece of new technology, but after a while, without good interpretation, the project will not reach its potential.  Technology is just an avenue to help bring the interpretation to life.

I highly encourage everyone to check out the new AASLH Educators & Interpreters Blog at and the Museum Minute Blog at I contribute to both blogs.

Rich, thanks for sharing your thoughts and insights!  You continue to challenge and inspire us!

Keep up with Rich here: 

Twitter: @NURFCRich

Check out the NURFC App – freedom.toursphere.com (web app) or in the Apple Store Android Marketplace.

Virtual Visitors vs. On-Site Visitors: Which Should Your App Cater To?

2 Oct

Thanks to mobile apps and virtual tours, armchair tourism has become an increasingly appealing option for many. Whether it’s a matter of checking out something that we might not have the time, inclination or money to visit in person or previewing a possible tourist attraction, museum, hotel, or city before we visit, the virtual tours allow us inside access to make decisions or even have a virtual experience without ever setting foot on-site.

But which type of visitor are you serving, and how can you make your mobile app most appealing to that sector? When deciding whether to gear your tour towards virtual or on-site visitors, consider your mission:

  • Access Far & Wide: Are you a museum looking to give access to a specific exhibit to the largest number of people possible? Then perhaps gear your mobile app towards a tour of your site that can also be easily understood and appreciated by the virtual visitor.
  • Education for Visitors: If your site doesn’t have live tour guides or you are looking to give people alternatives while still engaging and educating them, gear your tour towards those who will be on-site, creating a guide that will draw them into the physical aspects of your location.
  • Information at a Distance: So much information is available online to help potential students to decide which college campuses to tour, for example. If your goal is to provide the information people need to assess your property or offerings without forcing them to buy a plane ticket and stay in a hotel, gear your tour towards virtual visitors and give them a complete view of what you have to offer that will make them feel as though they’ve been there.
  • Marketing: For many hotels or tourism boards, drawing visitors on-site is the main goal. It’s about getting the booking or bringing a visitor to the city, and what better way than to provide a virtual tour that allows access to your top attractions or features? Provide a tour that’s geared towards a virtual visitor with an eye for them wanting to learn more or visit for themselves.

There are a few features you may want to consider when designing your mobile app, depending on whether you’re gearing it towards on-site or virtual visitors.

For On-Site Visitors:

  • GPS-Enabled Maps: Orient visitors quickly and clearly by creating a custom map of your site. The GPS feature on their phones will allow them to get around and find the features they want to visit most.
  • Surveys: An on-site visitor is a valuable opportunity to collect data. Integrate surveys into your app to provide your staff with feedback and ideas for improvement.
  • Audio Guides: Your visitors are lucky in that by being on-site, they can see your exhibit, sites, and more. But they may be missing out on the personalized overview that a live tour guide would offer. Fill the void by providing audio guidance directly through their phones.

virtual tourist


For Virtual Visitors:

  • Multimedia: One of the great options within a TourSphere app is the ability to add photos, videos and audio. This provides the virtual visitor with an immediate connection to your site and the experience of being there.
  • Visitor Information: If you’re using the app to draw people to your location, include easy to access visitor information that allows them to plan their trip or visit while they’re excited about your content within the app.
  • Analytics: Web-based apps like TourSphere’s allow you to access valuable analytics on those visiting your app so you can see where your virtual visitor base is and what types of marketing steps you might be able to take to further expand and engage your base.
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