A museum in your pocket

From handheld tour to mobile

Older readers will remember going to museums and heritage sites and being offered a clunky piece of hardware delivering a recorded tour on arrival. While those days may be gone the concept of the museum tour or trail lives on.

There are still plenty of devices on the heritage market to provide audio and visual tours. These usually are created by the owning company and are thus a bespoke product for the device and location. However, many museums have realised that mobile content avoids being tied in to a device or a company.

smart phone content provider

smart phone content provider


A museum in your pocket

The use of mobile technologies to deliver museum data and information is a hot topic for museums. This was seen in the packed Handheld conference at Tate in 2010 and the continuing Wiki that grew from that. We all want a way of delivering content that’s effective for the museum and gives the user a good experience.

Delivering content for mobile and tablet use has evolved. Four years ago we developed tours for our key objects with video hosted on YouTube for web use and installed on iPod touches and iPads for museum use.

Now with increasing mobile use, especially tablet and smart phone, content is created for user’s own devices. From a museum point of view this saves on staff time, having to charge for hardware hire, and lets the user choose what they engage with.

It was hearing at the Tate 2010 conference about the benefit of Wifi for web based delivery that inspired RAMM to develop its Wifi system.  This is free to use and has a simple login to encourage use. It gives the user the option of exploring our online offer by loading our museum website which has links to all our online offer.

Where we are now

We decided to maximise the potential of responsive websites, that is sites that respond to the device they are read on to increase usability, with a museum trails sub-site in 2011. Since then we have started this project with the University to deliver content on an improved platform, so stay tuned for more developments!

RAMM's responsive tours website

RAMM’s responsive tours website


Sharing and growing

Our work on mobile has given us useful experience to share with the sector. I recently spoke at a Museums Association event to share our experience. Interestingly the main question to come out of the day was how to engage audiences with mobile content but that’s a subject for another blog!

About Rick Lawrence

Digital Media Officer at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery, Exeter, UK
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