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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.

TourML: An Emerging Standard for Museum Mobile Experiences


The recent explosion of options used by museums to produce mobile experiences is undeniable.  In the last 18 months, dozens of new mobile platforms have entered the marketplace as museums are planning, producing, and launching new experiences for visitors on their mobile devices. Besides launching a successful tour, how can museum professionals ensure that the content we create will outlive the technology and vendors we select today?

A successful metadata standard for mobile tours would provide a number of advantages for museums. A mobile standard will allow museums to migrate the content and structure of a tour between the variety of tools available today and tools that may be available in the future. Similarly, a mobile standard would allow the same tour to be used on a number of current and future mobile devices. In addition, museums could choose authoring tools which best fit their staff and workflow needs while still deploying to whatever mobile device is best for their content - even if these tools are provided by different vendors. Perhaps most importantly, a successful mobile standard would ensure that museum content will outlive any particular technology we use today.

The TourML (tûrmoil) specification ( offers a working – but preliminary – example of how such a standard might work.  In order to develop a community consensus and to encourage support by commercial vendors, two collaborative mobile summits were held in the fall of 2010. The first occurred in London following the Tate Handheld conference in September (, and a second in Austin, TX during the Museum Computer Network conference in October (  In both meetings a diverse set of participants were gathered including museum professionals, vendors, and academics to review and collaborate together on a set of common semantics and structured descriptions used to author a specification for mobile experiences.

In this Mini-Workshop, the facilitators will review the current state of the TourML draft standard and host a discussion regarding outstanding issues for data modeling and implementation including, but not limited to:

  • Linking to object collections using existing metadata standards
  • Ways to use the TourML schema to encode and represent a variety of common tour elements
  • Design discussions regarding the XMLSchema definitions of the TourML specification
  • Validation methods for ensuring that instances of a tour are compliant to the standard
  • Possibilities for integrating mobile tours with mobile web CMS’s


Mini-Workshop - teaches something or explores approaches


rjstein's picture
Robert Stein is the Deputy Director for Research, Technology and Engagement at the Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA). In that role, Stein leads a wide range of activities for the museum including an extensive effort in media, web technology and software. Since 2006, he has played a significant role...
NancyProctor's picture
Nancy Proctor is co-chair of Museums and the Web, and heads up mobile strategy and initiatives for the Smithsonian Institution. With a PhD in American art history and a background in filmmaking, curation and art criticism, Nancy Proctor published her first online exhibition in 1995. She co-founded...