Tag Archives: walking tours

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.

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

Beantown Mysteries on the Harbor

19 Oct

Want to get the inside story on where the Departed was filmed? Or check out old images of how Boston used to look? If you’re local to Boston, you’ve probably explored the Boston harbor either by sea, or walking along the water and enjoying the beautiful breezy views. But, for those tourists looking to visit the area, or even locals looking to dig deeper, the new TourSphere app from The Boston Harbor Association gives visitors an inside view to the city’s best virtually private walking tour right from their phone.

Boston HarborWalk’s new TourSphere app gives visitors the inside scoop on all things Boston Harbor.  Visitors can take advantage of a virtually private walking tour through some of the most enigmatic and charming neighborhoods in Boston, starting at the Intercontinental Hotel. Tourists can preview restaurants, shops and museums along the water’s edge before even traveling from their own hometowns. They can meet local artists and hear unique perspectives right from the comfort of their own phone. Bostonians themselves can utilize the app to learn more about the neighborhoods they stroll through everyday, by exploring buildings, history, culture and even close-ups of what lies below the water!

The TourSphere app allows people near and far to explore some of the most entertaining stories and historical perspectives that the city has to offer. Through this new virtual channel, Boston HarborWalk brings the local sites and stories right to your phone!

To view the mobile tour of the Boston HarborWalk, visit
http://harborwalk.toursphere.com
or scan this QR code with your smartphone.

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