When we begin working with our partners, normally one of the biggest concerns is how docents or volunteers will interface with the app. Will volunteers be able to work the app? Will the app replace volunteers? (AKA Are robots taking my job?) Will volunteers and staff make sure people know about the app? Like any tool, technology can be used poorly or wisely. At a cultural institution, technology should enhance your exhibitions and be integrated with the people and systems your institution has in place. Here are three common concerns we come across in our work with museums and how to address them:
Are we being replaced? Let your volunteers know that an app or other digital experience is meant to enhance tours that already exist, not replace knowledgeable people. Docents can’t be everywhere at once. A museum app allows docents to make sure visitors can access great information even when volunteers are not present. Also, an app provides a wider array choices for how visitors can experience your museum. Younger smartphone-carrying audiences typically want to choose what they want to learn and how. A museum app gives them that choice. Some folks may even choose to tour with both a docent and the app! Remind your volunteers: change and growth is good for your museum.
My volunteers are not tech savvy. This concern is understandable and important to address, given that the majority of people who have time to donate are older and/or retired. Though downloading and using an app might be second nature to some, it requires a quick lesson for others. A good app company will provide basic training to your point-of-purchase staff and volunteers. An intuitive, user-friendly app doesn’t take long to learn!
I’m afraid my volunteers won’t tell visitors about the app. You have a beautiful app and want to make sure it will be used! Getting buy-in from your staff and volunteers is important for making museum apps successful. Communicating why you chose to implement an app at your museum, how it works and what it can do for the museum goes a long way in getting your volunteers on the same page as your staff. And you can make it fun. Have a contest to see which volunteers can accrue the most downloads!
At the end of the day, any digital layers that are added to your cultural institution should make learning more interactive, immersive, and, dare we say it, FUN! We’ll never forget the moment aboard the Battleship IOWA, an interactive naval museum, when a veteran who had served aboard the ship decades ago said, “My God! The ship I spent part of my youth on has come back to life!” after using the Battleship IOWA’s Guru-powered app. After all, if we aren’t making art, science, or history more accessible and immediate, what are we doing?
Have more questions that we didn’t cover here? Tweet @YourGuruApp a question and we will answer you.