Museums and Mobile Conference: highlights

On October 25th 2011, we joined an international community of museum professionals to attend the online conference, Museums and Mobile, eager to find out about the latest trends and best practices in the use of mobile technologies in museums.

All research and statistics are in fact unanimous in claiming that mobile access to internet and the use of smartphones are on the rise. Just to quote some figures, in the UK 27% of adults and 47% of teenagers own a smartphone. The most popular applications are games, followed by music (Source: Ofcom Report). The sector is clearly growing and it is very important for museums to keep the pace matching their core mission with the new visitors’ behavioral patterns and expectations.


Here you can read about some interesting projects which were presented at the conference.

The results were quite significant:

  1. 21,000 downloads to mobile phones;

  2. 24,000 plays;

  3. 32,000 website visits and 70,000 tweets. Twitter in particular had an increase of 5 – 10 % followers in addition to normal growth.

Kew Gardens was also able to capture 3,000 new email addresses to follow up with new campaigns and newsletters.


Giskin Anomaly, Balboa Park, San Diego, California Balboa Park is a urban cultural park comprising 15 major museums, performing arts venues, beautiful gardens and the San Diego Zoo. Giskin Anomaly is a parkwide cellphone adventure game whose most “innovative” feature is that it can simply be accessed via any traditional cellphone. The intriguing premise of the game is that two fictional characters, Pandora and Drake, have stumbled upon a technology that detects “thought imprints”, hidden in the Balboa Park landscape. The two characters respectively hold a detector and a decoder to hear voices from the past. However, they do not trust each other, and thus communicate entirely via voicemail.

Each stake includes a phone number and 3-digit code that visitors can use to hear conversations between the two main characters, and hear tips as to where the next stake is placed. The game consists of seven episodes, each containing one orange marker on a cultural institution and four white ground markers. Each episode takes about 30 minutes to complete. The narrative is extremely immersive: visitors follow Pandora’s footsteps to key points in the park listening to voices from World War II while Drakes provides further insights and explanations.

We think this game is simply brilliant. In particular we love its retro-compatibility with an “old” and ubiquitous technology such as the traditional mobile phone.

Love Lace Exhibition App – Powerhouse Museum, Sydney

Recently the Powerhouse Museum has created a new app for the current exhibition Love Lace. The app, which features a built-in QR-code scanner, works both offsite and onsite. People can in fact use it at home as a reference catalogue to browse through the various exhibits and artists. Onsite visitors can instead scan the QR code labels using the built-in scanner and the app will open up directly at the relevant page, inside the app itself, with info on the exhibits and artists.

The results have been very positive not just in terms of audience satisfaction but also for the opportunities this technology has opened up. It is in fact possible to gain extraordinary insights into visitor’s behavior such as the most scanned exhibits. With the wifi tracking you can also get information on how people move in the various exhibition rooms and how long they stop in front of an artwork. These data can clearly help establishing whether the content provided has been interesting or not for visitors and developing corrective strategies for future exhibitions.

Rivera Court at the Detroit Institute of Art Huge murals painted by Diego Rivera occupy the walls of an internal court at the Detroit Institute of Art. The artwork is dense with meanings, articulated in various panels that reach up to the ceiling. It is generally perceived as quite complicated to understand due to its symbolic references. It tends, therefore, to be overlooked by visitors who just walk through the court during their visit to the museum. To encourage visitors’ appreciation of this work, the Museum has developed a multimedia tour for iPad. This is not however an application available from the iTunes store. It can only be accessed directly at the Museum Information Desk by checking out an iPad (for free) where the app has been previously loaded.


Rivera Court


Visitors’ feedback has been very positive. Evaluation of the project has also shown that people using the iPad tend to spend more time in the court engaging with the murals, compared to visitors having unmediated experiences, i.e. without using the iPad. It can therefore be claimed that the application has been successful in providing visitors with new and engaging content.

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