Kickstarting The Mobile Museum

There is no denying the potential power of mobile in the museum. Anyone who is interested in communicating with museum audiences and informal learning can’t help but be impressed by the possibilities. Mobile devices can turbo-charge the visitor experience with rich media. They can be used with social media to build community. Mobile devices are going to be the ‘must-have’ appliance of the future, replacing personal computers. If you eventually came to the realization that your museum could not afford not to be on the world wide web, then get ready for the mobile universe. Eventually everyone will be connected to everyone else solely with smart mobile devices.

The mobile museum with its augmented reality is not only the most compelling museum devised so far, it is probably also the most powerful kind of mobile experience there is. That is because the mobile museum marries the tangible world, the incredible magnetism of the artifact, with the world of the imagination.Watch Full Movie Online Streaming Online and Download

A lot of people are using smartphones, approaching 50% of cell phone users in the US ( Smartphone users use their phones a lot. A recent survey ( showed the average user looked at the phone 150 times a day. Unfortunately games, weather and social networking are the top uses.

In spite of the high penetration of smartphones, museums are having more trouble than expected in getting widespread public awareness of the mobile experience, much less acceptance and participation. What should they be doing about that? Is it good enough to say, “It just doesn’t work. Let’s go back to the old, tried-and-true methods of interpretation.”? I don’t think so.

Then how do we kickstart the mobile museum?

No one else is going to help us with this, although some are trying. Some commercial interests realize that widespread use of apps they can use to communicate with consumers won’t just happen naturally. Future Shop, a Canadian big-box electronics retailer tried with a QR code. Go in to their store, they advertised, find the QR code, scan it and you could win big. But the incentive was just a ‘chance’ to win a contest. Who isn’t tired of that old come-on?

4Square and Instagram are doing it, but sadly most of their users probably don’t distinguish between the appeal of the museum and the burger joint down the street.

The very first step in creating the mobile museum is for the institution to decide that mobile really is a priority. The drive has to come from the top down. Many aspects of the museum’s operations have to work together in order to create the ultimate mobile experience. But I suspect that quite a few organizations are taking their first steps from the bottom up. The first attempt at an enhanced visitor experience is often initiated by an enthusiastic staff member who is listened to by senior management just long enough to say OK, give it a try. Perhaps it’s no wonder that the results of many of these initial trials have been less than inspiring.

To begin with, the building has to have free wi-fi so that all kinds of mobile devices can be used (e.g., iPod Touch, tablets), in addition to smartphones.

There also has to be serious marketing, focused on a high-profile event where the mobile experience is the center of attraction, not just an add-on.

The incentives for participation have to be real. We have to offer tangible and desirable prizes for participating – a free dinner from a sponsor, free admission tickets for a museum visit at a later date, free smart phone and three months free service from a sponsor, low cost items from the museum shop, behind the scenes visit with a curator. You get the idea.

And finally, there has to be serious assistance from visitor services staff
1. signage at the entrance about the enhanced experience available, free
2. greeters have to ask every visitor if they want to participate
3. greeters have to be prepared to show visitors how to download and install apps for their devices
4. greeters have to offer rental of a non-phone device, like an iPod Touch
5. device manufacturers have to be brought on board as sponsors

What is the take-away on this one? The mobile museum is not going to happen without a concerted, institution-wide effort. And in the final analysis, future expansion of visitor experience at the museum lies squarely in the court of the Visitor Services operation.


Kickstarting The Mobile Museum — 4 Comments

  1. Great post! We are a small Historical Society museum planning a new exhibit and have way too much interesting information and audio clips than will fit in our exhibit space, so you’ve got me thinking of providing the additional info on our website and/or a YouTube channel, accessed by mobile devices.

  2. I think that’s the direction to move in. It actually gives the visitor more personal choice in what information they want to follow up on, and what they want to save for another visit.

  3. Pingback: Social Interpretation: Mobilising staff « The Digital R&D Fund for Arts and Culture

  4. Pingback: QR Codes in The Museum Context: Part 2 | INNO/Genesis