Behind the scenes at the Nelson-Atkins Museum – "Through the Eyes of Love"

Country: United States
City: Kansas City, Missouri
Institution Type: Art Museum
Year Founded: 1933

“What would it take to get a visitor so invested in a story that they lose track of time?” That’s the question the team at Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City – along with content partner, Antenna International – asked itself when developing “Through the Eyes of Love.”

The team spent months participating in creative brainstorms, generating narrative maps, selecting pieces of art from the museum’s collection, and drafting story arcs, voices, and themes to engage visitors on a deeply human level.

The result is an audio journey unlike any other, more of a ‘soundwalk’ than a traditional audio tour, that allows visitors to truly lose themselves in the experience. A personal meditation on the wild, unpredictable, moving and messy experience of love, the tour feels like a walking podcast, immersing the visitor in an intense experience at the intersection of art and real life. Once visitors press play, there are no choices be made, buttons to be pressed, or screens to be viewed. They simply walk in a world of sound and emotion that explores the radical, all-consuming power of love and the different ways people experience it.

Starting with Claude Monet’s iconic Water Lilies and concluding with Untitled (March 5th) #2 by Felix Gonzales Torres, the 30-minute soundwalk guides visitors through 15 pieces that span from Impressionism to Pop Art to contemporary conceptual works.

The soundwalk is actually led by one of Antenna’s writers, who introduces herself as a writer and then goes on to share personal stories and memories. She connects with visitors by using informal, every-day language; provokes thought by asking questions without providing answers; shares her opinions about which pieces she does and doesn’t like; and deepens the intimacy of the tour by calling on her personal friends to share their own touching experiences. At Edgar Degas’ Grand Arabesque, for example, visitors hear from a real-life ballerina who describes a passion for dance that is so deep that she gladly continues until her feet bleed.

It’s all possible thanks to a location-aware app that uses Wi-Fi triangulation to track where the visitor is in the Museum at all times. Visitors walk at their own pace, following instructions in the unfolding story, with music bridging between moments and the narrator referencing the visitor’s surroundings in real-time to guide them.

“What we have created together [with Antenna] is even beyond what we’d hoped. We are seeing visitors have strong emotional responses—from laughter to tears,” said Anne Manning, Director of Education at Nelson-Atkins Museum.

Interested in learning more about this and other Antenna International stories? Click here to read about other client projects.

Banner Image by Americasroof at English Wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons