Museums and the Web

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

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Open Museum and the Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College
Open Museum

Mobeum Tour InterfaceMobeum Tour Interface

Mobeum is a service from Open Museum that allows museums to build web-based mobile tours accessible to visitors with smartphones (e.g. iPhone, Android, Blackberry) and mobile browsers (like the iPod touch.) The web-based content management systems allows museum curators to create deep, content-rich, presentations of each object, including audio, video, graphics, and explanatory text.

The service forms part of Open Museum's overall digital outreach strategy. In addition to enhancing the visitor's gallery experience, Mobeum also makes it possible for the museum to "capture" the visitor as a friend. Once a friend, the museum can send email announcements about new content and upcoming events with links back to Open Museum.  The visitor can follow these links on either a desktop or mobile browser. 

Desktop InterfaceDesktop Interface

Because the mobile tour content is also accessible in parallel desktop and mobile browser, visitors can bookmark objects, post comments and questions, participate in conversations with the museum staff and other visitors, and share objects via all of the major social networks.

This grassroots spreading of museum content, via the social networks, forms the basis of what we call the digital outreach viral loop.  In fact, the Mobeum project is the direct outgrowth of a concept screencast posted on October 5, 2009 in museums without borders, Open's Museum's blog.

Open Museum launched the pilot version of Mobeum in January, 2010, in partnership with the Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College, featuring 24 objects from the Hood's permanent European Collection.  

Visitors can initiate the tour in a variety of ways: by entering the URL of the tour (, by pointing a QR code reader at a tour label, or by sending a text message to a shortcode autoresponder. Once in the tour, visitors can use arrow buttons to follow move to the next object or look up individual objects by number.

At launch, each object in the Hood Mobeum included, at the minimum, an image of the object, label information and introductory text, and a one to two minute audio clip.  The curators from the Hood are in the process of "thickening" each object, enriching a new one each week with related images, text, and audio commentary, including notes about the life of the artist, technique, and historical context.  

Mobeum Curatorial InterfaceMobeum Curatorial Interface

The web-based content management interface is easy enough to be used by non-technical staff. And since Open Museum provides hosting services, no dedicated hardware, web servers, or technical staff are required to use the service. 

Rationale for Best of Web

Mobeum offers all museums, regardless of size or resources, the opportunity to create rich web-based tours for mobile browsers, and to use those tours to create lasting relationships with visitors.

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