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An Audio Tour Review: Warhol at the De Young

Posted on | April 2, 2009 | 5 Comments

This week’s podcast is aimed primarily at students in the Online course on Mobile Interpretation for Museums developed for TEC-CH Online, Università della Svizzera Italiana, Lugano, though it also provides pointers on what to look for in an audio tour for anyone developing a museum audio tour. Students are asked to create a case study on the Handheld Wiki describing an audio tour they have taken using a dedicated museum audio tour player. This example audio tour review of the Warhol Live exhibition tour at the De Young Museum in San Francisco (Feb 14-May 17, 2009) covers most of the points that the case study should record and analyze:

  1. Producer: Who produced the tour? Was it done ‘in-house’ by museum staff in part or whole? Were any audio tour content or technology providers involved?
  2. Technology: What device was used? Did it use headphones? If so, mono or stereo?
  3. Distribution: How was the device distributed? Was it available for download online or on site, as well as on museum-specific players at the museum?
  4. Staffing: Were the staff employees of the museum or a tour provider? Were they well-presented, professional and courteous? What kind of an effort did they make to get you to take the tour? Did they explain the device and tour use clearly and efficiently?
  5. Price & Security: What did the tour cost? Were you required to leave a deposit or was other security used for the device? Where were the distribution facilities located with respect to the museum/exhibition entrance?
  6. Take-up Rate: How many devices were available to visitors? What percentage of visitors were taking the tour? What percentage of devices were in-use? Can you get a sense of the profile and motivations of those taking the tour – and those not?
  7. Marketing: How was the tour marketed/advertised within the museum and beyond? What signage was available at individual ‘stops’? Was it visible and helpful?
  8. Technical Performance: Describe your experience of the technology: what worked well, not so well? Was the device easy to carry and handle? Was the audio quality good? Overall did the device serve as an ‘invisible’ platform for the content?
  9. Tour Design: Is the tour linear or random access? How is the tour integrated into the exhibition design? Does it interact or conflict with other media (audio, video, interactive kiosks, etc.)? Did the audio tour do something that other media – wall labels, docent tours, etc. – couldn’t do as well?
  10. Length & Layout: How long was the tour (how many stops, overall length)? Were the stops well distributed throughout the space covered by the tour?
  11. Languages & Versions: Were there multiple languages or versions, e.g. a children’s tour, sign language tour, or descriptive tour for visitors with low vision?
  12. Content Structure: Describe your experience of the content: what was the tone/voice? How long were the messages? Were there multiple layers of messages at some exhibits? How many messages in the whole tour? Did the tour and the messages seem too long, too short, or just right?
  13. Visitor Experience: Evaluate your overall experience: was your visit enhanced by the audio tour and interactions with tour staff? Do you think other visitors enjoyed the tour? Was there crowding around exhibits on the tour, or other issues that clouded your experience?

The reviewers interviewed by Nancy Proctor for this case study are Harriet Moss, former President and CEO of Antenna Audio, and Ernesto Sanchez, artist and former performer with Snake Theater, where Chris Hardman’s audio-based theatre productions were born. Despite being offered in the classic museum audio tour formula, the tour proved to be as innovative and unusual in structure as the exhibition and the artist it represented. Moss and Sanchez found themselves delighted and inspired by the multi-modal, polyvocal experience and how even this established medium challenged their expectations of the exhibition experience.

Apologies for the less-than-ideal audio quality of this podcast, which was recorded through a less-than-cutting-edge skype-to-phone connection so includes unfortunate interference!

And thanks to the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, de Young Museum, for permission to use the following images from the exhibition in the podcast (in order):

  1. Photographer unknown, Andy Warhol holding a 1964 publicity photograph of The Rolling Stones, 1969, gelatin silver print. The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh; Founding Collection, Contribution The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.
  2. Cover by Andy Warhol, Cano (November 1948), 1948, printed ink on paper with coated paper cover. The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh.
  3. Andy Warhol, Self-Portrait in Drag, 1981, Polaroid TM Polacolor 2, facsimile. The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh. Founding Collection, Contribution The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.
  4. Nat Finkelstein, Andy Warhol, Gerard Malanga, Mary Woronov and The Velvet Underground, 1966, (reprint 1996), gelatin silver print. The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh; Museum purchase.
  5. Andy Warhol, Triple Elvis (Large three Elvis), [Ferus Type] June-July 1963, silkscreen ink, silver paint, and spray paint on linen. Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Virginia.
  6. Andy Warhol, Debbie Harry (detail), 1980, acrylic and silkscreen ink on linen. The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh. Founding Collection, Contribution The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.
  7. Andy Warhol, Self-Portrait, 1986, acrylic and silkscreen ink on linen. The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh. Founding Collection, Contribution The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.
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Comments

5 Responses to “An Audio Tour Review: Warhol at the De Young”

  1. James G. Leventhal
    April 2nd, 2009 @ 1:04 am

    this post has so many layers of meaning, communication, intention, technology and audiences — intended and otherwise…this is just SUCH a trip. well done!

    Is this about work, school? Listening to the audio stream, it’s like one of those old industrial films that arise as sweet nostalgia every once in a while on-line…

    this is great.

    loved the show, by the way:
    http://loveitallabove.blogspot.com/2009/03/warhol-live.html

  2. Ernesto Sanchez
    April 2nd, 2009 @ 9:46 am

    Wonderful Nancy. Makes me want to go back and take the tour again. Ernesto

  3. MuseumMobile Wiki » The Warhol Live audio tour at the De Young Museum
    July 12th, 2009 @ 1:58 pm

    [...] podcast review of the Warhol Live exhibition tour at the De Young Museum in San Francisco (Feb 14-May 17, 2009), [...]

  4. Sandy Goldberg
    July 12th, 2009 @ 7:48 pm

    Fascinating to come across this! I was the tour writer/interviewer. It’s great to get feedback. Sandy Goldberg

  5. nancyproctor
    July 12th, 2009 @ 7:55 pm

    Sandy,
    Great tour – congratulations! I would love to have your feedback on the principal elements of a successful audio tour that we use this tour review to illustrate – anything you’d add or change?

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