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Immersive Audio Experience Launches at Nelson-Atkins

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri, has just introduced two immersive Antenna-produced walking tours that combine the latest technology and true drama. Narrators and a changing cast of characters tell stories that go far beyond describing brushstrokes. Imagine the artificial intelligence voiced by Scarlett Johansson in the movie Her, and you’re getting close to the experience.

Visitors are guided seamlessly through the museum via an app that can be downloaded to their own mobile phone or an on-site device. Once they press “start,” there’s no need to interact with a device any longer; they have embarked on an Antenna-narrated journey that feels more like a walking podcast than a traditional tour. Navigational directions are subtly embedded in the storytelling, and audio is triggered at the exact pace of the visitor’s movements, creating magical moments of discovery and wonder.

From masterpieces to little-known gems, the museum’s collection is brought to life in new and engaging ways. In one of the tours, a group of four friends share little-known facts they’ve discovered about pieces of art throughout the galleries. While looking at Gustave Caillebotte’s Portrait of Richard Gallo, visitors hear what sounds like a dinner-party conversation that reveals interesting tidbits—like why poubelle is French for “trash can” and why newspapers are nicknamed “rags.”

On the other route, visitors are immersed in heartbreaking and exhilarating stories on the nature of love. At Edgar Degas’s bronze Grand Arabesque, a real-life ballerina describes her passion for dance that is so deep, she gladly walks around with bloody feet.

Close collaboration and iterative testing between Antenna and the museum were vital to the project; Nelson-Atkins is only the second museum in the United States, after SFMOMA, to work with Antenna and use the Detour app’s location-aware functionality to create this kind of innovative story-led tour.

“This is all new, so we partnered really closely with Antenna to test, iterate, and finalize during the development of the soundwalks,” shared Anne Manning, director of education at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. “It had to work perfectly—seamlessly—so that the technology would disappear, and the visitor would focus solely on the story.”

Christine Murray, senior creative strategist and executive producer at Antenna International, agreed: “These immersive tours connect with visitors on a deeply human level. The technology allows us to choreograph these magical moments where mind, body, art, and space all intersect. Do you learn about the artworks? Of course. But you almost don’t realize it because you are so lost in the story.

“It’s hard to describe, but when you turn a corner and your guide gasps in wonder at the same moment you do, it truly feels like you are with a personal companion showing you around. It took real daring for the museum to create something so innovative, but it has really paid off for their visitors. This is a totally new, fresh and moving form of engagement.”

Manning is equally enthusiastic about the new tours: “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.”


Here’s an audio sample from one of the tours:

New Hirshhorn multimedia tour makes the remarkable, relatable

It’s impossible to NOT react to Ron Mueck’s sculpture “Untitled (Big Man)” – the gigantic naked man is one of the first artworks you encounter as a visitor to the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington DC. He’s at once enigmatic and vulnerable, huddled massively in a corner. That’s why we chose him to be the opening experience on the new multimedia tour of the museum’s permanent collection. Individual voices of visitors, volunteers, museum guards, and others puzzling over him reflect and prompt you to examine your own reaction. Who is he? Is he real? Is he an adult man or an overgrown, punished child? Why do we feel so many emotions when we look at him?

The new guide is designed to be an “eyes-always-on-the-art” experience, focused around listening, and full of insightful, surprising and relatable stories that crack open the conceptual, contemporary works for which this Smithsonian museum is famous.

The approach to each audio message is bespoke, so no two messages are alike. For example, when viewing an Alberto Giacometti sculpture, a striking drama unfold: visitors become immersed in the sounds of a train journey made by the artist at the end of World War II, which highly influenced that artwork. At Leyva Novo’sFive Nights”, which comments on totalitarian manifestos throughout history, visitors listening to the artist’s voice are guided to look out of nearby windows to the National Archives Building across from the Museum. Hearing the artist’s reflections, they are also encouraged to consider the connection between revolutionary ideas and tyranny.

With its high resolution screen and quality audio capability, Antenna International’s latest multimedia player, the M3, is central to bringing the exhibits to life by pairing audio with visuals. Its Android operating system is familiar to visitors and easy to navigate, creating a seamless experience. Accessibility features such as induction loop and voice reader compatibilities, haptic feedback, text transcripts, and screen magnification improve the user experience.

Nina Callaway, content designer at Antenna International, comments:

“We knew our foremost goal was to connect to the Hirshhorn’s audience. To do so, we worked across the museum, and interviewed everyone from the director to the security guards to understand visitors’ curiosities and confusions. Out of this grew a very unique tour that we hope engages diverse visitors.”

New Antenna partnerships with the World’s Premier Cultural Destinations

The new Louvre Abu Dhabi represents the single largest project for digital content creation in the mobile interpretation industry. So it is with great pride we can announce that Antenna will be producing 200 stops across the permanent collection. These will also include an interactive family experience, an adult experience, and an adapted experience for visitors with disabilities.

“This partnership is an opportunity for Antenna to pioneer the interpretation of virtual art and exhibits – and to connect more people to culture than ever before, through storytelling,” says David Falter, President and CEO of Antenna. “Our efforts on this project will play a major role in supporting Abu Dhabi’s mission to serve as a cultural metropolis and a meeting place for the world.”

Falter continues, “The mission behind the development of these experiences is to highlight the shared influences and mutual history of humankind. We want to avoid the isolation of cultures and disciplines to offer a comprehensive history of art, providing an alternative to the particular vision of the world that has long been proposed by museums. We’re deviating from traditional approaches and building an experience that will redefine the art of storytelling – even beyond these museum walls.”

The Louvre Abu Dhabi is scheduled to open in 2017. The museum will play a vital role in the cultural district currently being developed in Abu Dhabi, which is also expected to house extensions of the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi and the Zayed National Museum.


Chicago Tribune spotlights our new EVP, Creative Services & Global CMO

At Antenna, we approach each project as a strategic partner – someone who truly understands the needs, goals and challenges of the institutions we work with. Our industry knowledge is very much shaped by over 30 years of listening – listening to the people we work with, their visitors, their leadership teams, their people ‘on the ground’. That’s why much of our own leadership team comes from the museum world itself – which gives us an intimate understanding of how museums work.

Gordon Montgomery, our new Executive Vice President, Creative Services & Global Chief Marketing Officer is well known in the industry. He comes to Antenna from the Art Institute of Chicago, where he served as Vice President, Marketing and Public Affairs from 2012 to the present. Responsible for many of the visitor and public-facing operations, he cultivated an enhanced overall visitor experience that led to Trip Advisor ranking it as the “number one Museum in the World”. Prior to that, Gordon spent much of his career in the creative industry at global advertising agency Leo Burnett, where he worked on some of the world’s most iconic brands, including Procter & Gamble, Sony, Motorola, The United States Postal Service, Gateway and Maytag.

To find out exactly what Gordon himself has to say about his new role, and to gain some more insight into what will be happening at Antenna over the coming months, why not read the full article from the Chicago Tribunehere.

Our take on “How to Talk to a Visitor Who is Wearing Headphones”

These days, many visitors to our museums walk around playing with an audio or multimedia tour device and are often wearing headphones and listening to an audio tour commentary at the same time.

This doesn’t mean they aren’t paying attention to the artwork (nor does it mean this post will continue as a parody of another article circling on the web this week…).

To increase your “take up rate”, visitors need to know an audio tour is available. Here are a few tried and true methods to acheive this.

5 ways to increase your “take up rate” with signage:


    1. Signage, inside and out
    Clearly marked signage outside of the museum will ensure that visitors can mentally plan their first steps into your site. They’ll know that they can buy a ticket and pick up a tour before entering the exhibitions.

    2. Flags and graphics
    Use flag graphics to let visitors know that a tour is available in their language. This is an effective way to communicate with both multilingual visitors and in large spaces where text is not easily seen from far away.

    3. Entrypoints
    Distributing the tour at the entry of a temporary exhibition reminds visitors that a tour is available for the exhibition they are about to see, rather than remembering to return to the main entry way to pick up a device. Putting signage at the distribution point will alert visitors to an audio tour and the exhibition itself.

    4. The “people factor”
    Never underestimate friendly looking staff distributing a tour. If they catch the eye of a visitor, have them ask the patron directly if they would like a tour. The staff can show how to use the device and answer questions about the audio tour experience.

    5. Location, location, location
    Placing the audio tour desk in a highly trafficked location will remind visitors to pick up and return their device upon exit, without the need for even more signage.


Our on site operations teams are available for helping your museum get on the right track for audio tour distribution. You can learn more about that here.

Exploring Visual Identity: Opening the Doors to Stowe House

Designing the visuals for a multimedia app means understanding our partner institutions’ visual identities. We need to understand the story behind the institution and how their logo and branding tell the visitors those stories.

What is a Visual Identity?
Some people liken a brand to a friend of the audience, but in our industry, its more than that – the brand is your visitor services staff that welcomes the visitors to explore. Taking the comparison even further, the app literally becomes the tour guide. Visual branding – and by extension the app – tell your visitor what type of experience they will be having and from the very beginning can influence experience with visual clues.

Achieving Your Institutions’ Look and Feel
We start to get a look and feel for the institution by studying the branding that the museum is already using. Then we look at the objectives the museum has – who is the target audience for the app and how can we use the visual identity to capture their interest? Now, it’s our job to connect the institution’s visual identity and with the visitors’ digital and onsite experiences.
Looking through doorways quoteStowe House, we started with a logo and illustrated Victorian paper silhouettes and connected those to the proper English estate. Stowe House has a very interesting history in which the institution is best known as a school and is working diligently to gain a reputation as an attraction. To convey the idea of seeing something behind the scenes, we introduced visualizations of doors to each room. The app also gains a sense of digital “space” and a realistic feeling since there is a visualization of a door to each room. The thumbnail images of each room allow visitors to “peek in” and appeal to people’s natural curiosity and desire to explore to encourage them to explore the app. Behind the doors are the Victorian silhouettes that reinforce the ambiance and aesthetic.

adult tour menu

Transport Visitors Back in Time to a Different Aesthetic
The transition from looking at the app to looking around the room in real life is seamless for visitors. Incorporating the authentic, traditional and stately design with photos and illustrations of objects in each room connect the multimedia digital experience with the onsite experience and bridge the real and the virtual.

stowe photo

Dome Interactive wins award in Paris

What if, through a monument, you could travel back in time, rather than being a simple observer imagining the past? Picture the last resting place of Napoleon, and the beauty of his tomb. That’s exactly what we’ve helped deploy at the Army Museum in Paris with “Dôme interactive”, the new interactive multimedia tour on iPad mini. Art graphique et patrimoine (AGP) who created the content, have made it possible for visitors to see Dome interactiveinside and around the Dome Chapel and the various tombs in a way never before experienced. We have provided all the equipment, and the staff who run the operation.

Using 3D modelling and the iPad Mini, the tour allows visitors to see what the original building looked like during the reign of Louis XIV, and look at an impressive reconstruction of Napoleon’s ceremonial coffin the day it was presented. And in a brave departure from traditional audio guides, the client chose to forego any audio commentary and instead place the emphasis on a shared, social, headphone free experience that visitors could experience together. The value of the 3D models in particular is undeniable and continues to be praised by visitors.

Just recently, at their annual event, the RNCI 2016, Clic France ran for the only 2nd time ever the ‘Prix Patrimoine & Innovation’ (Heritage & Innovation Awards). Out of 6 categories and 36 projects, the award for ‘Dispositifs in situ’ (On-site Tools) went to the Dome Interactive Tour. This is a fantastic accolade that shows thinking outside the box when it comes to tour design and being willing to make brave moves in trying new ways to improve visitor experience is one of the right things to do.

New App Teaches Young Kids about Art at the Milwaukee Art Museum

Antenna Develops Fun Way to Engage with Kids of All Ages

MILWAUKEE, Wis. – January 20, 2016 – A fun, innovative app designed exclusively for children visiting the Milwaukee Art Museum has been launched by Antenna, a global leader in designing mobile experiences, technology and consulting services for cultural and historic institutions.   The new app is uniquely segmented for two groups of young visitors – ages 4-7 and 8-12 – and is playfully designed to engage kids, providing fun ways to experience the Museum, and inspire them to explore the content and collections.  It is the first museum app developed specifically for audiences this young.

MAM screenshots on phones “There’s a higher standard when developing an app for younger visitors, especially for a Museum that’s nationally recognized for its innovative art education programming,” said Sofie Andersen, Executive Producer for Antenna. “Working together with the team at the Museum, we identified a playful interface design focusing on new features that could translate into using the app at home as well as at the museum.”

The “A is for Art” audio tour experience is designed for the Museum’s youngest visitors aged 4-7 and is charmingly voiced by child actors. By way of this tour, kids are immediately engaged in the ABC’s of what they are seeing in the artworks, starting with “A is for Angel” at  Abbott Thayer’s An Angel (1893) and ending with “Z is for Zoo” at Giovanni Castiglione’s Noah and the Animals Entering the Ark, (ca. 1650).  The app features short audio excerpts that encourage discussion between the adults and the children in the group.

The “Eye-Touch” tour is for children aged 8-12 and uses a mix of audio, video and interactive games to introduce kids to more than 40 works in the collection. The tour balances fun experiences – such as behind-the-scenes video footage of artists at work and on-screen activities, with audio-messages aimed at helping kids to look closely and engage with the art. As an example, children can see a spoof weather report from a local meteorologist based on a painting they’re observing – or participate in games where they pick and mix together the sound effects.

Antenna has taken the popular social media phenomenon – “selfies” – and created the “Art Selfie,” a fun camera function to encourage kids to connect directly with the art they are looking at, and in turn, be creative themselves. Using the camera, kids take a Selfie and insert themselves into a selection of art works, then share the resulting image on social media or save them on their device.  This feature uses the Museum’s collection of anonymous 18th and 19th century portrait miniatures to give visitors a chance to see how they would look as a work of art.

This hands-on engagement reflects an emerging best practice in the museum industry that encourages the use of multiple access points, including serendipitous surprises known in the tech industry as “Easter eggs.”

“Who doesn’t want to take a selfie with a work of art, play taxi radio stations, or discover other fun ways to engage with the museum?” Anderson said. “We know people love to use their cameras in museums and the Art Selfie is a great way to turn that behavior into a creative and fun experience.  Instead of saying ‘no’ to phones and cameras, this brings visitors right into experience.  We’ve been testing all of these activities with kids over the last few months and they absolutely love playing with the features, and we have a feeling parents will be getting in on the act, too!”

The app was developed as part of the Kohl’s Art Generation project, for the Museum’s Apple devices – and it can be downloaded as well, allowing kids to resume the experience at a later time, either at the Museum or remotely.

“The new app not only provides structured tours for our young visitors and their families, but it also offers lots of serendipitous discoveries – as well as the chance to make, bookmark and share their discoveries using social media,” said Brigid Globensky, Senior Director of Education at Milwaukee Art Museum. “It’s a perfect complement to the full range of activities families can have in our newly renovated galleries and we love that they can now share their experiences and continue exploring once they are home.”

The app is available for download.