Guru Interview Series: Dana Duran On The Art Of Telling Museums’ Stories
Welcome to the second installment of our interview series. Through these chats, we hope to foster the sharing of ideas about tech in museums and hopefully, provide a spark of inspiration that leads to the creation of even more cool projects! For this second interview, we wanted to give y’all a glimpse of the creative process here at Guru by chatting with our Lead Interactive Storyteller, Dana Duran. Enjoy! – Guru
First of all, what is your favorite part about working with museums?
This is going to sound very cliché and nerdy, but my favorite part is the learning. I was always the kid that liked school and I’m still the kid that loves to learn about everything and then impart that knowledge to others. My husband now knows a lot of things he didn’t before because I can’t contain myself!
You do a lot of different types of storytelling at Guru–through audio, video, augmented reality, and now, virtual reality. Let’s start with your process. When you first start working with a museum, what do you do?
First, I research the museum online to catch their voice and target audience. Then, I listen. Even if they don’t realize it, many of the staff members, docents and curators let out what they think is missing. When we visit museums during operating hours, I like to watch the visitors and listen to their conversations. They tell a lot about what’s capturing their attention, why they might skip something and what they might feel is missing. It’s fun to observe and analyze (I know, nerd.)
After the museum visit, what’s your next step?
Once I’ve been to the museum, my next step is to gather up the writing team and strategize. Not all museums need the same thing when it comes to audio tours. Depending on what already exists in the space, or even if the exhibition hasn’t been put together yet, we decide what will enhance and blend with that experience. That can be oral histories, cheeky overviews, kid-focused, anything! The visitor experience is always top of mind and we really do try to put ourselves in the visitor’s shoes while keeping in mind the needs of the museum.
How does the editing process work once you’ve written something?
Once writers complete a script, we send it off to our Guru editor. After that, scripts are sent to the museum for final approval.
How do you come up with ideas for augmented reality experiences?
Some of them just sort of pop in my head out of pure excitement, but others can take some research. I always try to pick something that can be both exciting and educational. The point is to help people learn without them even realizing it. They learn while having fun. Anytime I can transport people, whether in time or space, I try to push to make it happen.
In terms of immersive storytelling, what avenues are you most excited about exploring?
I’m really excited about finding ways to combine audio with augmented reality in a seamless audio tour experience. There are some pretty cool AR goggles and glasses making their way onto the market and a hands-free museum tour that blended audio, video and AR would be incredible.
Favorite museum or historical site you’ve ever been to?
I can’t pick just one, haha! I’d say the Pantheon, Alcatraz and Jane Austen’s House.
Dream museum to work with?
Hearst Castle. I would love to make those old Hollywood parties come to life via AR and I’d also love a chance to jump into that indoor pool!
Latest geeky obsession?
Short stories by Ray Bradbury and Joan Aiken. And the new Wonder Woman theme song whenever I need motivation to start writing.