Favorite museum/garden/attraction visitor experience technology?
March 14, 2011 11:45 AM   Subscribe

What is your favorite, can't miss museum, botanical garden, aquarium, zoo or other attraction that is using cool visitor experience technology? Bonus points if they're in Washington, D.C., New York City, San Francisco, Portland, Los Angeles or Seattle.

I've read this question, but want more than just an iOS/Android app.

I am trying to put together a list of must see/use or investigate visitor experience technologies in various attractions in the US. Preferably in the cities above as those are ones we are already traveling to or live in. Some places already on the list include MOMA, American Museum of Natural History (we're already partnered with their app maker), and OMSI in Portland (local for us).

Some examples of the technology we're wanting to look at on-site include: interactive web, cell phone tours, iPhone/iPad and Android apps, QR codes, GPS/Wifi locative information, SMS based info, etc. Low tech works if it is really inventive. Please also feel free to include if you purchased your ticket or membership in what you thought was a particularly cool way.

In essence, we want to know what cool technology you have used in a museum, etc. We're aware of most of the major vendors in the field but are looking for solutions in the wild that people really enjoyed.
posted by ..ooOOoo....ooOOoo.. to Technology (15 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
This may not be what you're looking for, but: the Frick Collection in Manhattan has an old-style audio tour, where you carry around a big phone and punch in numbers found on plaques beside the art.

It is, in my opinion, the best visitor experience enhancement I have ever used, because the content and presentation is just so awesome. The people doing the voice-overs clearly love (sometimes, really really love) the works they talk about. It's informative and engaging. When you walk around the Frick, you will see most people stand infront of a picture/sculpture/etc for the entire duration of the audio track. It turns what could be a small outing to a small collection into almost a day trip.
posted by hammurderer at 12:26 PM on March 14, 2011

The Brooklyn Museum of Art is doing lots of interesting experiments with technology, social media, and such. Check out their tech blog.
posted by moonmilk at 12:27 PM on March 14, 2011

Not in the US, but the Melbourne Aquarium has an iphone app.
posted by buttercup at 12:49 PM on March 14, 2011

Not only your list, but the USS Midway Museum had the old-school "tape recorder, punch in numbers" system to learn about specific locations on the ship.

What made it cool, though, was the fact that they had recorded oral histories and actual sound clips. You weren't listening to a docent just telling you about the ship's bridge -- you were listening to an interview with someone that actually sat in that chair on that ship and did that job. You could hear the sounds of the ship's actual activity -- planes taking off, machinery, etc.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:50 PM on March 14, 2011

In fact, here are some clips.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:51 PM on March 14, 2011

No bonus points for me, but the Lincoln Library and Museum in Springfield, IL is incredibly cool - including a holographic 'stage' show as a way to tell much of Lincoln's historical story.
posted by Mchelly at 1:06 PM on March 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Scapes at the De Cordova is a audio installation experienced via mobile, with user contributions, that has been really well received.

Also, try Tweeting or emailing Nancy Proctor, head of mobile strategy at the Smithsonian, and Tim Grove at Smithsonian Air & Space, to ask for their recommendations.

The museum where I work is pretty proud of its web and in-gallery interactives and has some nice presentations of web media, so we would be delighted if you came here.
posted by Miko at 1:20 PM on March 14, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks all, these are some great recommendations and thoughts on what you like. Please keep them coming! And Miko, I'd love to make it to Salem, but I'm limited to the cities above on travel for now due to limited funds from our grantors and board member underwriting travel.
posted by ..ooOOoo....ooOOoo.. at 1:29 PM on March 14, 2011

Mchelly: "No bonus points for me, but the Lincoln Library and Museum in Springfield, IL is incredibly cool - including a holographic real! live! 'stage' show as a way to tell much of Lincoln's historical story."

Shh!! Mchelly, you're not supposed to TELL!!!!!

Another very cool thing at the Lincoln Library is the "Civil War in Four Minutes" display, which is a map that lights up as the battles are fought. Really spectacular.

Honestly, everything in the Lincoln Library and Museum is awesome, and because it's so new, it makes the most of technology from the start.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 1:31 PM on March 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you use the Air & Space Museum in DC, don't forget it's sister, the Udvar-Hazy Air & Space in Chantilly, Va. near Dulles Airport: it's got all the stuff too big to fit downtown.
posted by easily confused at 2:16 PM on March 14, 2011

Low tech but the audio tour at Alcatraz in San Francisco is fascinating. It's narrated by former guards and prisoners to amazing effect.

Not sure if this is valid but if you're interested in visitor experience Museum of Jurassic Technology in Los Angeles may be worth a visit. It's no-tech and more than a little tongue in cheek. It's museum displays themselves as high art. http://www.yelp.com/biz/the-museum-of-jurassic-technology-culver-city
posted by deanj at 3:15 PM on March 14, 2011

In Brussels, MeFi pointed us to the Musical Instruments Museum, where all visitors are issued a set of infrared headphones that play sample music from whatever display of instruments you're standing closest to. Despite a few technical glitches here and there (there's a touch of interference between some displays), this made for a really neat experience.
posted by deludingmyself at 3:16 PM on March 14, 2011

As part of the 010101: Art in Technological Times exhibition, SFMOMA had this augmented reality drama (they gave you a little camcorder that you watched scenes on that "superimposed" over parts of the museum). You got to go into these weird little "staff only" type back stairwells and stuff. It was super neat. Could probably do that same with a smartphone app nowadays. Part of what made it super neat was that it wasn't an add-on to browsing the exhibits (in fact, due to it's use of back stairwells and such, you didn't see much of the museum contents), the tour told a little story and was itself an exhibit.
posted by juv3nal at 4:50 PM on March 14, 2011

I second the rec for the Udvar-Hazy Air & Space in Chantilly, Va and it's not a museum but I have a fondness for the WW2 monument & the Tulip library.
posted by jaimystery at 5:14 PM on March 14, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks again all for the recommendations. I'll keep this open a little while and let you know where we ended up going.

For those who asked via memail/email, this is who we are.
posted by ..ooOOoo....ooOOoo.. at 8:51 AM on March 15, 2011

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