Museums and the Web

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Mobile devices for orientation and way finding: the case of the British Museum multimedia guide

Silvia Filippini-Fantoni, Cogapp; Sarah McDaid, LSBU; and Matthew Cock, British Museum, United Kingdom


When the first handheld devices became commercially available, museums were particularly excited about the opportunities that these could offer particularly in terms of visitors' orientation and way finding. The presence of a touch screen, in fact, supports the use of interactive maps, which, alone or in combination with location aware technologies can help visitors understand where they are and decide where to go.

More than 10 years have now passed since the implementation of the first handheld guide and, unfortunately, many museums are still struggling to develop and implement effective way finding solutions on mobile platforms. Location aware technologies have proven to be expensive and problematic to install and maintain, while interactive maps, particularly of complex sites can be challenging for people to use and interpret on small screens.

Building on the experience of other institutions such as Tate, the Met and the Louvre, the British Museum has recently launched a multimedia guide in 11 languages that supports way finding and orientation without relying on location aware technology.

In this paper, we will present in details the various way finding solutions that were developed for the guide, as well as the results of research and evaluations that were carried out on these applications during and after the launch. Through our experience, we hope to provide a reference for other medium and large size museums, which are grappling with similar issues.

Keywords: Orientation, Way finding, interactive maps, multimedia guide, handheld, guided tours

Launching the MFA Multimedia Guide: Lessons Learned

multimedia guide

For the opening of the Museum's new Art of the Americas wing, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston embarked upon a sweeping new program to transform the traditional audio guide into a new iPod Touch-based multimedia guide.

Paper - in formal session