Highlighting museum docents with a new beacon powered mobile app at The Oriental Institute in Chicago.

Sue Geshwender, Oriental Institute Museum, USA, Nancy Harmon, Encurate, USA

The Oriental Institute, part of the University of Chicago in Chicago, IL, is a world-renowned center for research focused on the study of the ancient Middle East. The collection spans over 15,000 years of ancient history and boasts some of the most important archaeological discoveries of the twentieth century.

In the fall of 2016, the Oriental Institute created the museum’s first mobile app in partnership with Encurate Mobile Technology. In addition to an interactive map, event calendar, and additional content, the app features a self-guided audio tour featuring the museum’s docents. In an effort to inspire visitors to consider the museum’s objects outside the traditional archaeological point of view, the docents both authored and narrated the audio content. The goal of the docent audio tour is to provide information within a more accessible context, in this case the docent’s favorite objects for their own personal reason, rather than presenting information from an archaeological, scientific perspective as is seen in the majority of the museum’s current media. As the mobile app user explores the galleries at their own pace, they are alerted via push notification when a docent-selected artifact is nearby and they can listen to the docent talk about their artifact. The mobile app is beacon powered. Like many institutions, the museum is unable to offer Wi-Fi to visitors. Bluetooth powered beacons offered a way to deliver a wireless, location aware experience without the need for Wi-Fi.

During the demonstration, participants will be able to see the new mobile app in action. Meet the museum’s Volunteer Manager and members from the Encurate team to discuss the collaborative design process and the goals of the project.