Increasing Museum Enrichment with a Museum Engagement App

Rachael Cristine Woody

Rachael Cristine Woody

January 11, 2023

An incredibly large percentage of—if not majority of—museum collection objects aren’t on display.

In any other industry it would be shocking to consider placing such high-value assets in a dormant state. Those in the museum field tend to view this as the status quo—when instead we should be questioning how we can make our collections work better for us and our audiences. It took a catastrophic global crisis paired with the long-term museum closures to prompt the entirety of the field to rethink how collections can work for us—even in a dormant state. The limitations of a museum’s physical space and geographic location are no longer insurmountable. With the hybridization of physical and digital collections there are now dozens of possibilities for object display, content enrichment, and online simulation of the museum visit experience.

The Museum Engagement App

One such enrichment tool is the museum engagement app. A museum engagement app is an application built for use on smart devices (typically a smart phone in this case) that facilitates both the delivery of information as well as encourages further patron engagement. Most applications can support information delivery in multiple languages and accessibility pathways. The use of a museum app facilitates the hybridization of physical collections on display with digital surrogates of objects in storage. This grants the ability to present content on objects that otherwise aren’t available and adds contextual depth that can further enrich the museum visitor experience.

Information in the Museum Engagement App

The app is a tool that can provide on-demand information delivery. A typical museum engagement app includes information on:

  • How to visit the museum
  • How to navigate the museum and exhibitions
  • Current and upcoming exhibitions
  • Current and upcoming special events
  • Data on individual objects
  • Content that is related to the objects such as interviews, archival materials, articles, and other resources

While some information is serves as referential, the bulk of the content in a museum engagement app is intended to provide depth. A good museum engagement app will encourage users to discover related museum objects, investigate complex themes within an exhibition via interviews and related articles, and self-pace the depths of their discovery at an enjoyable speed.

Museum Goals and Outcomes for an Engagement App

The goals for a museum engagement app are for the app to support museum attendance, ease movement throughout the museum, and deliver information on museum objects, topics, and events. Outcomes are more learning and impact oriented. A museum engagement app has the potential to:

  1. Boost both first-time and repeat patronage
  2. Help the intellectual accessibility of museum content
  3. Offer a multi-sensory experience
  4. Deliver a more impactful learning experience
  5. Encourage visitors to “deep dive” into information on a particular object or topic
  6. Increase the enjoyment-level of the visitor experience

When considered all together, the potential impact of a museum engagement app is quite awe-inspiring. Ultimately these outcomes will help to broaden user access to museum content and encourage visitor attendance. A win all around.

Conclusion

A museum visitor engagement app is just one of many ways a museum can provide visitor enrichment. However, it’s only one of a few options in which the museum can expertly leverage existing content and objects in storage. The appeal of remixing existing digital collections content to facilitate visitor enrichment is incredibly motivating. As museum staff, we want to see the collections be used and enjoyed, and the entwining of the physical and digital collections helps to bring our work together for new and meaningful output.

Rachael Cristine Woody

Rachael Cristine Woody

​Rachael Woody advises on museum strategies, digital museums, collections management, and grant writing for a wide variety of clients. She has authored several titles published by Lucidea Press, including her newest: Museum Digital Projects and You. Where to Begin? Rachael is a regular contributor to the Think Clearly blog and an always popular presenter.

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