Location-Awareness at the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art

Nelson-Atkins Museum
Country: United States
City: Kansas City
Institution Type: Art
Year Founded: 1933
Content Type: Audio
Tour Type: Adult
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Client testimonial
“We saw this chance to design experiences for our visitors that would transform their understanding of our collection—and we grabbed it with both hands. This is exactly what we believe in as a museum. What we have created together is even beyond what we’d hoped. We are seeing visitors have strong emotional responses—from laughter to tears.”
Anne Manning, Director of Education, Nelson Atkins Museum
Client profile
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, USA maintains collections of more than 35,000 works with collections of Asian, African, American and Native American art. The museum welcomes 500,000 visitors a year.
Challenge: fostering an emotional connection between visitors and artworks
Following the donation of a large private collection, the Nelson Atkins Museum was looking for new and innovative ways to engage visitors with art. Having experienced the innovative approach to audio on offer at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, they approached Antenna International to develop their own cutting-edge audio experience.
The objective was to develop multiple audio tours that would foster a deeper understanding and emotional connection with their artworks. This meant a new approach, moving away from conventional art-historical commentary towards resonant storytelling and raw emotional honesty, while still providing a guided route through a very wide-ranging collection of works.
Solution: a unique combination of technology and storytelling
Antenna used a combination of location-aware tools developed by Detour and narrative throughlines to create the ‘Through the Eyes of Love’ audiowalkWifi triangulation means that the visitor never has to touch the audio player during their tour.
Relevant stories appear at exactly the right moment, based on the visitor’s location. Visitors walk at their own pace, with music bridging to the next story moment, with the narrator using real-time references and surrounding objects to guide them.  Directions are so seamlessly embedded within the storytelling that the visitor feels guided without being hemmed in.
The theme of the tour is love, with a focus on personal stories and experiences. Rather than the audio acting as a commentary about love on display in the artworks, the artworks serve to reinforce the larger themes being explored in the audio. Paul Cezanne painted Montagne Sainte-Victoire many times, so the accompanying audio explores the obsessive love of place, and a ballerina describes how she will gladly walk around in bloody feet because her passion for dance is so great, just as visitors view Edgar Degas’s bronze Grand Arabesque.  Visitors learn about the artworks by viewing them through a whole new lens, lost within the story.
Curators had to trust Antenna’s groundbreaking storytelling approach and were encouraged to display vulnerability and personal feelings about artworks.  Building trust takes time, so Antenna’s creative team met in person with curators on multiple occasions to iteratively evolve the stories.
Result: an intimate and magical experience
The ‘Through the Eyes of Love’ audio tour launched in February 2017. It is one of three location-aware audiowalksthat Antenna has delivered for the Museum. The others are ‘What Else Happened?’ a witty audiowalk through art history based on the format of friends sharing trivia, and a permanent collection tour that often uses voices from outside the museum to engage visitors with surprising perspectives.
‘Through the Eyes of Love’ pushes the boundaries to create a truly intimate and magical experience, rather like listening to a close friend confess the details of their newfound love, or listening to a podcast while walking through a Museum.
Visitors have responded with deep emotion during these tours, laughing out loud and in some cases becoming moved to tears.

About Us

We are innovative storymakers and creative technologists devoted to visitor-first experiences.

We make audio tours, mobile apps, multimedia guides, podcasts, interactives, and superior story-driven content for the museum and cultural sector.

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