"Re-imagining the Audio Tour" with the SFMOMA app

SFMOMA
Country: United States
City: San Francisco
Institution Type: Archeology, Art
Year Founded: 1995
Content Type: Audio
Tour Type: Adult, Access
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Client profile
The San Francisco Museum of Modern ArtSFMOMA, is a modern art museum located in San Francisco, California. SFMOMA holds an internationally recognized collection of modern and contemporary art.
SFMOMA closed for a three-year-long expansion project and reopened in May 2016. The expansion tripled the museum’s exhibition space, allowing SFMOMA to showcase an expanded collection including highlights from the renowned Fisher Collection of contemporary art.
Challenge
Known for pushing creative boundaries, SFMOMA wanted to disrupt the notion of what an audio tour could be in a museum. The SFMOMA app was developed with the support of Bloomberg Philanthropies and in partnership with San Francisco start-up Detour. It is the first mobile experience in the cultural sector to sync cutting edge location-aware technology with rich and diverse audio storytelling, setting a new standard for the field.
SFMOMA’s goal was to develop a new breed of fresh, engaging guided narratives featuring unexpected voices.  The content needed to appeal to out-of-town visitors as well as the local San Francisco community, and reinforce the museum’s bold, cutting-edge reputation. They needed an imaginative audio partner with wild, outside-the-box ideas to experiment and re-imagine how audio could surprise and delight listeners.
SFMOMA chose Antenna International to create the bulk of their original new content in the SFMOMA app, in English, multiple languages and as Audio Descriptive content, for both the museum’s permanent and temporary collections.
Solution
Antenna brought together a large and unique creative team, from composers to game developers, comedians, documentary filmmakers, podcasters, writers and sound engineers.  Over the course of the project, Antenna led a series of “Story Jams” to brainstorm and unearth “story hooks” with curators, the interpretive media team, video producers, and anyone else in the museum with an interesting point of view on the visitor experience.
To engage the local San Francisco community, Antenna forayed out of the art world and into the local Bay Area community to find a surprising cast of “characters” for audio interviews.  Alongside working artists, studio assistants, and others in the field, the team interviewed a wide range of individuals, including a magician, a junk collector, a poet, a pagan minister, an opera designer, theater director, aerial dancer, and local choreographer – to offer fresh, personal perspectives and connect with the city’s eclectic culture.  This idea of gathering personal responses and insights from outside the museum walls continues to be a radical concept for interpretation.
Antenna created 10 hours of audio, from “nearby audio messages” to long-form immersive location-aware walks, as well as audio descriptions for the visually impaired, and translations in five languages.  Since the app has launched, Antenna has continued to add permanent collection content, and has created immersive audiowalks for the exhibitions Bruce Conner: It’s All TrueMatisse/DiebenkornEdvard Munch: Between the Clock and the Bed; and Robert Rauschenberg: Erasing the Rules.
Outcome
Since launching, the SFMOMA app has been recognized with many industry awards, including a gold MUSE Award from the American Alliance of Museums, and the ‘GLAMi’ (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums innovation) award for Museum Wide Guide or Program.   It has also been setting records for number of downloads and return visits.  Many who use the app have enthusiastic things to say about the wide variety of content available:
  • “Having experienced many wonderful modern art collections around the world my wife and I agree that SFMOMA is world class, and has a great app with interesting and well produced audio tour… must see!” Visitor, Houston, TX
  • “The audio guide is a must have – it is so intuitive and relaxed – so beautifully curated – most recommended.” Visitor
  • “The audio guide is the most informative, engaging and artistically delivered of any I have experienced in decades of travel around the world. Get the free app and take earbuds! Superb!” Visitor, Vancouver, Canada
Delighted by the caliber of Antenna’s storytelling, innovative production approaches, flexible creative services, and account management stewardship, SFMOMA has continued to renew their engagement with Antenna through multiple contracts.

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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