Tag Archives: Parks & Gardens

App Spotlight: Toledo Museum of Art

25 May

Toledo Museum of Art Audio GuideQ&A with Maria Iafelice, Docent Program Manager at Toledo Museum of Art

Since its founding in 1901, the Toledo Museum of Art’s mission has been art education and it has earned a global reputation for the quality of their collection, their innovative and extensive education programs, and their architecturally significant campus. More than 30,000 works of art represent American and European painting, the history of art in glass, ancient Greek, Roman, and Egyptian works, Asian and African art, medieval art, sculpture, decorative arts, graphic arts, and modern and contemporary art. The app provides content that caters to a variety of audiences and allows visitors to explore the galleries in alternative ways.

Q. How does the app enhance the visitor experience?

A. 
TMApp integrates technology into the gallery experience and provides a sensory learning opportunity for visitors to look, listen and learn; we know that people learn in different ways. Additionally, TMApp creates an opportunity for new audiences to access and connect with our collection and for current audiences to see it in new ways. TMApp allows us to communicate with our visitors and also help them to navigate the space.

Q. The app features a very unique approach to an audio tour, with original poems inspired by the TMA collection penned and read by revered Irish poet Paul Durcan. Was it always the intention to use his work in the app when he began his residency at the museum?

A. 
It was a great honor to have Irish poet Paul Durcan write a book of poetry inspired by works in the TMA collection. While working on the project, we knew we wanted to incorporate his poetry in the galleries. The timing of his public poetry readings and the beginning of our relationship with OnCell was happenstance. This audio tour inspired another poetry-related audio tour that’s currently in the works.

Scavenger narrator Cardinal Antonio Barberini gives users clues to locate an animal on the loose in the galleries.

Q. Another unique feature of the app is a “wild animal hunt” for a creature who has found its way out of an artwork and prompts families to follow clues around the museum.  What inspired you to create this experience in the app?

A. Because the Toledo Museum of Art has a long history of immersing children in the world of art, we believe that it’s never too early to start the learning and engagement process. The goal of the Escape! scavenger hunt on TMApp was to have a fun and playful way for families to explore the galleries and to look closely at works of art.

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

A. We’ve received a number of positive reviews including a young visitor who was so excited about the scavenger hunt that he wanted to come back the next day to explore again!

Q. How do you plan to leverage the app builder to share new content?

A. We’ve used the builder to ensure the app is updated and reflects rotating exhibitions. For example, visitors were able to dive deeper into our special exhibition Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic with a mobile guide that includes artist interviews, with video and audio interviews with the artist; images of the Old Master works of art that were the sources for poses, titles, and other details; audio commentary; and other contextual information. We have also used the guide to include information about TMA collection connections, a soundtrack (on Spotify) inspired by the exhibition and created by the TMA Teen Apprentices, and a selection of audio descriptions for visitors with vision impairments. Visitors can look forward to new guides coming this spring that will include accessibility features including extended audio descriptions.

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

A. You don’t have to do it alone. This project is a collaborative effort across multiple departments including Information Systems, Marketing and Education & Engagement which has been important in the development phase. Additionally, frontline staff has been leveraged to promote the TMApp experience.

The TMapp app features original audio and poetry, gallery tour, an interactive scavenger hunt, and essential visitor info such as admission and floorplans. The app will soon be paired with location-aware beacons to help visitors discover content. 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 TMAapp.oncell.com.

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

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: Heritage Museums & Gardens

23 Jul

Q&A with Andrea Early, Marketing and Communications Director

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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.

Historic Peirce Mill Re-launches Mobile Tour App for the 2014 Season

23 May

Perice MillPeirce Mill is the last existing mill in the District of Columbia and the only 19th-century gristmill maintained by the National Park Service that operates on a full-time basis. On the National Register of Historic Places, Peirce Mill is a living museum and tribute to the 1820s economy of America and D.C.’s agrarian past. Despite changes over time, the sturdy exterior and interior retain the authentic appearance and atmosphere of a 19th century grist mill, with 170 year-old stone walls, authentic wooden milling machinery, hand-hewn beams and columns, and heavy oak floor boards.

Created by the Friends of Peirce Mill, this app has new additions for 2014.

“We looked forward to the re-launch as we were really pleased with the number of visits during the initial run of the app, and we’re sure it will continue to be a popular mobile website for visitors to Rock Creek National Park,” says Steve Dryden, Program Manager for the Friends of Peirce Mill.

This mobile tour app details how the mill works through a hand-drawn interactive image, details the mills restoration, and its history with archival photography.  Learn about the native wildflowers at the Nature Center, other mills in the Rock Creek, and find markers for trails to reach Peirce Mill with the GPS-enabled map.

“We made revisions this year so visitors can understand the larger picture of milling on Rock Creek, including the little known fact that President John Quincy Adams owned a mill less than a mile downstream from the Peirce’s,” says Dryden. “The mill is a fun place to visit and always attracts crowds, but as its hours open to the public are limited, we need the presence given  by the app.  And, the mill history and technology is somewhat complicated, so the app gives people a head start in understanding the site. There’s a good deal of information on other destinations related to the mill and our nonprofit group, so the app is important for visitors who don’t necessarily stop by the mill itself.”

To view the Peirce Mill App, visit http://peircemill.toursphere.com or scan this QR code with your smartphone.

To view the Peirce Mill App, visit http://peircemill.toursphere.com or scan this QR code with your smartphone.

 

App Spotlight: HarborArts Shipyard Gallery Walking Tour

10 Jan

If, upon visiting the Boston Harbor Shipyard and Marina, you noticed that one of the buildings had a large half man, half octopus sculpture on top, your curiosity might be piqued. (The name of the sculpture is Iscariot, by the way, and he’s made of recycled steel and reclaimed wood.) What is a piece of art doing in a marina?

7a9f97bfa0e22021a0aeb534f16fd580b8a98e02a305682c404da510.png.1000x666_q85Iscariot is not alone; the HarborArts project has turned the Boston Harbor Shipyard and Marina into a veritable art museum, but instead of walking by puzzled, visitors can now access the entire exhibit through their mobile devices on a TourSphere tour, engaging with the work and learning more about the artists.

An interactive map allows visitors to conduct a self-guided tour of more than 30 different pieces of art around the Marina. It also allows HarborArts to engage visitors about its unique mission: to protect and preserve our oceans and waterways by helping each of us to understand the issues and solutions facing our blue planet, using monumental art and public sculpture to raise awareness.

The HarborArts app is a classic example of how a mobile tour can turn what might be a confusing sight to a passerby into an opportunity for engagement with an organization and education about a mission. Further, it provides a virtual tour experience for those who aren’t able to visit the open air museum directly, with excellent photos, background and artist information about each piece of art.

In an effort to also promote the artists featured at HarborArts, the app also provides information about each artist and, when applicable, links to their blogs and websites. For those impressed by the exhibit, they can choose to instantly “Like” HarborArts on Facebook or follow the organization on Twitter, providing immediate interaction and the ability to capture the visitor’s interest before they leave the exhibit. It also provides a donation button embedded into the app, again providing an instant way to access and engage the visitor.

The HarborArts TourSphere app is another creative way for a small nonprofit organization to expand their reach and engagement economically and without hiring staff for tours. If you ever visit the Boston Harbor Shipyard and are wondering about the artwork hidden about, check out the app for the details!

To view the HarborArts Tour, visit http://harborarts.toursphere.com or scan this QR code with your smartphone.

To view the HarborArts Tour, visit http://harborarts.toursphere.com or scan this QR code with your smartphone.

App Spotlight: This is Hampton, VA

21 Dec

19eb9e1949b98efcfb150d35271041c18292d866ed749363748b415c.png.301x96_q85Hampton, Virginia is a picturesque city and the site of America’s first continuous English-speaking settlement. Dating back to the 1600s, there’s lots to see in Virginia’s sixth-most populous city, and the Hampton Convention & Visitor Bureau wanted to make sure that no one missed a beat. That’s why they created a digital tour guide with the “This is Hampton, VA” app on TourSphere.

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This smartphone city tour provides six “insider’s” tours in the city of Hampton: Downtown Hampton, The Virginia Air & Space Center, the Neighborhood Tour, Hampton University, Fort Monroe and Phoebus. Each walking tour highlights some of the city’s best features and provides visitors with an easy, free way to make a day or weekend out of exploring the city, making it an even more attractive destination.

To get funding for the apps, the Hampton Convention & Visitors Center tapped into each featured organization for relevant grants. This creative method allowed them to pay for the app from a variety of different sources, defraying the cost and serving the mutual interest of a number of local organizations.

  • Downtown Hampton: This one-hour, one-mile tour features an interactive map of downtown and videos that share with the tourist Hampton’s Civil War history, its connectionwith Blackbeard, the site of Bunch of Grapes Tavern (a colonial watering hole), the city’s art and culture and more.
  • Virginia Air & Space Center: Take a walking video tour of 20 aircraft and 10 spacecraft, from antique planes to space shuttles, and learn about the country’s history in the air through videos on your smartphone.
  • The Neighborhood Tour: A 90-minute walking tour of Hampton’s “heart and soul” drives you through scenic roads while giving the opportunity to explore on foot at times. View Victorian homes, waterfront vistas and more.
  • Hampton University: Tour one of the country’s leading Southern universities and its leading historically-black university. In 90 minutes, learn about Hampton University’s pivotal place in the Civil Rights movement, hear about the pro football players that played at Hampton before they “made it big,” and check out Rosa Parks’ former place of employment.
  • Fort Monroe:  One of North America’s most historic and prestigious forts, Fort Monroe has been been a place of refuge for thousands of fugitive slaves; a prison for rebel leaders; and an active military post. Check out the Lincoln Gun, a 49,000 pound cannon and the cell where Jefferson Davis was once imprisoned, all through video and an interactive map.
  • Phoebus: Take a walking tour of one of the oldest neighborhoods in Virginia’s lower peninsula with TourSphere. Videos will talk about the neighborhood’s Civil War history, the Great Depression as depicted by a Post Office mural, and more.

Hampton’s unique idea–to create a package of tours and a complete tourism experience–helps to enhance a visit for any tourist while ensuring that they don’t miss a beat in the city and adding value for member organizations that can be incorporated into tours.

To view “This is Hampton, VA,” visit http://hampton.toursphere.com or scan the QR code with your smartphone.

To view “This is Hampton, VA,” visit http://hampton.toursphere.com or scan the QR code with your smartphone.

 

App Spotlight: Peirce Mill Tour

7 Dec

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Peirce Mill is the last existing mill in the District of Columbia and the only 19th-century gristmill maintained by the National Park Service that operates on a full-time basis. On the National Register of Historic Places, Peirce Mill is a living museum and tribute to the 1820s economy of America and D.C.’s agrarian past. Despite changes over time, the sturdy exterior and interior retain the authentic appearance and atmosphere of a 19th century grist mill, with 170 year-old stone walls, authentic wooden milling machinery, hand-hewn beams and columns, and heavy oak floor boards.

Visitors to the mill can augment their authentic historic experience with a mobile app from TourSphere, providing a richer tour of the old mill. An interactive map of the site  allows visitors to get a real-time read on their location and see everything the mill has to offer. Clicking on any of the sites, immediately calls up the appropriate tour features. This feature ensures engagement of the visitor and that visitors won’t miss areas they’re not aware of. It also allows the app creator to cross-promote local partners and other sites of interest.

At any of the stops along the tour, the mobile app provides history, background and insight that’s not apparent simply by visiting the site. Some stops add multimedia with archival photos. A mobile app provides a more flexible and economical solution to displaying these types of artifacts than presenting them at the site itself.

Custom to the Peirce Mill tour, a hand-drawn interactive diagram of the mill allows the user to touch each component and learn how it works, providing more insight into the history of the site as part of the agrarian economy.

Finally, the Peirce Mill app allows the museum to increase engagement even further with information in its mobile app about school programs, activities to do on the mill site (like picnicking and hiking), and an interactive survey that provides real-time information to the museum about its visitors’ preferences and experiences.

To view the Peirce Mill App, visit http://peircemill.toursphere.com or scan this QR code with your smartphone.

To view the Peirce Mill App, visit http://peircemill.toursphere.com or scan this QR code with your smartphone.

No Cell Service or Wi-Fi? No Problem.

26 Nov

TourSphere apps are web-based, which means that they require either cell service or wi-fi so that the user can download and use the app live at the site of the tour. We have many clients, like parks or sites with bad cell phone service, who ask us if there are any options for them to use a TourSphere app. Our answer? Of course! When your site has no cell service or wi-fi, there are three options to consider.

Create a Native iPhone and/or Android App

The advantage of native iPhone and Android apps is that they are downloaded onto a mobile device as bundled content, and don’t require the streaming that a web app requires. This means once they’re downloaded onto the user’s phone, he or she can utilize the full-featured app no matter what type of service or wi-fi is available. In fact, we can actually convert your TourSphere app into an Android or iPhone app to accommodate sites with no wi-fi or cell service.

While this seems like the perfect solution for our clients without cell service or wi-fi, there are a few disadvantages to this option. Apps with audio and video can take up a lot of space on a mobile device. Plus, they require the user to plan ahead, which is a gamble. If the visitor doesn’t check your website to discover you have an app available, they may miss the opportunity to use it, because it won’t be accessible on-site. Finally, choosing either an iPhone or Android app can make your app unavailable to those users without that particular device, where a web app is accessible to all users with web-enabled devices.

Provide On-Site Devices for Users

Many museums and tourist sites provide iPod Touches or iPads for their visitors and pre-load their iPhone app onto the device. These devices are then either loaned or rented to visitors. Providing pre-loaded devices solves the planning issue for visitors, since they can arrive on site with nothing on their phone and still access the app via a borrowed device. This can also provide a stream of revenue for your site, if you choose to charge for the rentals. By providing the pre-loaded app on a device, you can enhance the visitor experience for every visitor instead of just those with access to your app via their own device.

However, providing hardware has its cons as well. There is a significant up-front cost to buying hardware to lend to your museum visitors. There’s also a staff burden in keeping the devices maintained and updated, as well as keeping track of the devices once they’re loaned out. Finally, the staff needs to make sure that they update each device individually when there is any update to the iPhone app, which can be time-consuming.

In 2013, TourSphere will be introducing a solution to this issue by providing a new native app publishing method for on-site devices. This solution will allow for remote and automatic app updates, reducing staff time spent maintaining the apps.

iPad Kiosks

The third option for museums and tourism sites that don’t have wi-fi or cell service is to put the tour directly into exhibits and on-site with iPad Kiosks. Traditionally, kiosks are extremely expensive pieces of hardware, but by building a TourSphere app for an iPad and mounting it directly into the exhibit, you’ve created the same opportunity for learning and information as an app on the user’s mobile device, but don’t require the user to access the information on their own phone.

iPad Kiosks basically provide a touch-screen display at a minimal price as compared to a traditional kiosk. The app can also be locked so that users can only view what’s available to them and not surf the Internet or access other programs. While the tour is not in the hand of the user, it provides an excellent and low-maintenance way of providing interactive, engaging information for your exhibit.

If you’re interested in web apps but don’t have wi-fi or cell service on site, contact the TourSphere team for additional information about your options.

 

Creating an Award-Winning Mobile App

16 Oct

After all the hard work you’ve put into developing your app, it’d be nice to get a little recognition, right? As the app landscape has exploded over the past several years, so have mobile app awards programs. At TourSphere, we’ve seen many of our clients win awards in their respective industries for fantastic apps that they’ve developed using our platform.

There’s nothing that inspires creativity than seeing what other great apps have to offer, so we thought we’d give you a taste of some of the awards TourSphere apps have won.

So how do you win one of these awards? Our biggest recommendation to you is to check out what’s available for awards in your industry and to get out there and apply for them. Spread the word about what your organization is doing that’s innovative, both within your industry and in general, with your mobile app and digital program.

If you’re building an app and would like to apply for a mobile app award yourself, here are a few you can check out!

  • The Webby Awards: Includes categories like Best Use of GPS or Location Technology, Best Use of Mobile Video and Integrated Mobile Experience
  • Digiday Mobi Awards: Honors overall excellence and breakthrough achievement in mobile media, marketing and advertising.
  • Media & Technology MUSE Awards: Recognizes outstanding achievement in museum media.

Share with us: What are the app awards in your industry?

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