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Conference of the Future?

April 5, 2011


MoMA’s free iPhone App offers a range of mobile experiences for museum visitors. Image from imprint.printmag.com

The second Museums & Mobile Online Conference took place on March 22 and 23, 2011. It featured interactive online panel discussions by museum professionals from institutions including SFMoMA, the Getty, National Museums of Scotland, and the National Museum of the American Indian—all of whom have addressed introducing new mobile experiences for their visitors. These experiences include mobile museum tours (apps or web-based), mobile gaming, and using mobile devices to ask visitors to contribute feedback, content, or even donations. The event also included a “Virtual Expo” of vendors offering mobile interpretation related products and services to museums.

Museums have offered mobile content for decades—the first audioguide tours appeared in the 1960s—but recent advances in technology have changed the game when it comes to mobile. The biggest change is that today almost all museum visitors have their own mobile devices (cell phones, iPods, and tablets) and content can be delivered directly to them via these devices. Visitors can personalize the mobile content according to their interests and their available time, and in many cases, they don’t even need to be in the museum to do it. The popularity of social media (Facebook, Twitter), user content-generated websites (Wikipedia, YouTube, Flickr) and review sites (TripAdvisor) shows that people want to share their own ideas and experiences with the world. Are museums ready to relinquish control over content to their visitors? Can visitors go from being users to participants—accessing and creating content whenever, wherever, and however they choose? Have we entered a new age of museum-visitor interaction?

The Museums & Mobile conference itself is an example of the opportunities afforded by technological advances. Entirely online, the conference connected people from North America, Europe and the rest of the world using their computers or mobile devices. Participants could interact with presenters and each other, using chat windows, live polls and questions, instant messaging, audio, and web cams. It was an affordable, greener and more sustainable conference in that people did not have to fly or drive to attend, and it was paperless. In an age when people are increasingly concerned with getting value for their time and money and decreasing their carbon footprint, are online conferences the future?

Museums & Mobile Online Conference II was produced by  Pocket-Proof- a design agency specializing in mobile museum experiences- and LearningTimes- an online learning program producer. Museums & Mobile III is scheduled for September, 2011. http://www.museums-mobile.org/

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Lisa Wright

About The Author

Lisa Wright is a Senior Consultant in Exhibitions at Lord Cultural Resources.

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business review / September 18, 2011

As forward thinking and devoted to education as most of these organizations have been one critical aspect of their ongoing health and financial security has always revolved around getting patrons in the door and donors to send in checks..Various mechanisms over the years have materialized to assist in this quest to fund the institution by adding souvenir merchandise promoting up-sells to enhanced experiences charging for docent led tours or via mobile technology aka AudioTours . Audio tour hardware and content costs money tours guides have salaries gift shops need to be manned and take up additional space for items on the shelves as exhibits open..Still from a 1952 news clip from the Dutch Gescheidenis Web site demonstrating a new audio tour technology at the State Museum in Amsterdam.In Floats view one thing that hasnt really quite hit the museum crowds yet is the use of mobile technology to add value to the visitors experience engage the visitor both before and after the visit and just maybe add an opportunity for new revenue streams to fund their educational missions.

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