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Museums and the Web

An annual conference exploring the social, cultural, design, technological, economic, and organizational issues of culture, science and heritage on-line.

Going Mobile? Insights into the museum community’s perspectives on mobile interpretation


If the future is mobile, how is the museum community experiencing that future, what are their ambitions within it, and in which areas is further knowledge share required?  It was specifically to gain an insight into questions such as these that the 2010 International Museums and Mobile survey was developed.  This paper will present and analyse the responses of the 600+ museum professionals that participated in this research.

The 2010 International Museums and Mobile Survey reached out to museum professionals internationally to share their perspectives and understanding of mobile interpretation at their institutions.  Dividing respondents into four categories – those from institutions that already used mobile interpretation, those from institutions that were planning to use mobile interpretation tools, those from institutions that had no plans to use mobile interpretation tools, and those from vendors working in this field – the survey sought to gain an insight into the everyday realities of developing, delivering and sustaining mobile interpretation provisions in an institution.  The survey questions related to the objectives of, and target audience for, an institution’s mobile interpretation experience; the challenges faced by institutions in planning and operating a mobile interpretation experience; and what strategies were used to measure the success of these experiences.  Other questions probed the aspects of mobile interpretation in which individuals felt there were insufficient knowledge share, and also about what excited them most in this field.

Over 600 museum professionals responded to the survey, sharing their views on the above questions. Responses were received from individuals working in institutions with a wide variety of backgrounds and profiles: institutions in over twenty countries are represented in the results; two thirds of all responses were from institutions that did not use mobile interpretation tools, and of which half were planning to in the twelve months, and half had no such plans.  Whilst a quarter of responses came from within institutions that boast an annual attendance upwards of 250,000 visitors, more than half had annual attendance of under 50,000 visitors (and less than 1 staff member working in digital media).

Drawing on this data source, this Paper will draw out the key trends that arise, and forward analysis on their context and implications for the community.  It will explore opinions on issues ranging from whether mobile interpretation should be available at an additional cost to visitors, to how to define the target audience for a mobile interpretation tool (i.e. is it just “those that like audio guides”?).  And from whether in five years time museums will still be required to provide a hardware platform to visitors for the mobile experience, to the obstacles those entering the field are facing today.  Through this analysis, this paper aims to provide guidance to those museums entering this field for the first time, create awareness of those areas where further knowledge share is required (and hopefully identify those institutions best placed to provide such knowledge), and ultimately provide a valuable tool on which to further inform debates in this field.


Paper - in formal session


Loic Tallon's picture
Loic works at Pocket-Proof immersed in the finer details of the design, development and sustaining of effective mobile experiences for museums. When not doing his own research in this field, he works with museums seeking to resolve the needs of visitor for exceptional mobile experience with that...
isabelfroes's picture
Isabel Froes has a BS in psychology from PUC-Rio, where she also worked as a researcher for the National Research Centre for over 5 years. She has Masters Degree in Interactive Telecommunications from New York University. As an Interaction Designer she has worked with museums and galleries in...