If you’ve been following our blog, you know we spend a great deal of time focusing on getting our ASK app in more people’s hands. One way we have been doing this is by working with our colleagues in the Education department to use ASK as part of school group visits. We’ve also worked with several professors at Pratt Institute, who have brought their freshman art history classes here and used ASK as part of their time in the galleries. These initiatives have worked quite well, with both staff and participants feeling like they made the most out of their time with us. We started to wonder, however, how to expand this concept of using ASK in a group setting. And that’s when I had a fruitful conversation with Laval Bryant, our Group Tours Coordinator.
We don’t currently offer any special information or experience (printed guide or otherwise) for self-guided group tours. These are the booked groups who elect not to have a guided tour with one of the Museum’s guides. However, just because they may not want a tour with a person, doesn’t mean they don’t want a unique, even curated, experience. Laval wanted to know if ASK could somehow fill this gap in our offerings. As she explains, “groups arriving to the Brooklyn Museum often have limited time and are hoping to receive as much information on our collection as possible. We hope to fulfill the need of those who want the convenience of exploring the museum at their own pace combined with a certain amount of guidance on what to see. We want them leaving here feeling like the purpose of their visit was a great success.”
Jessica, Laval, and I set to work with the ASK team to try out this very concept. Could ASK be used for a self-guided tour? What is the “right” balance of guided and free-form experience? How many tour “stops” make sense? How much freedom do we give participants to shape their experience? We’ve run several tests of the concept with staff, and one very helpful test with colleagues, where we analyzed the artwork selection and number, content, format, and the map that will be given to each tour participant.
Striking the right balance between guided and free-form, finding the “right” number of stops, and clearly communicating the format of the tour have been challenging. Jessica will go into these nuances in our next post. However, I am delighted to say we’ll start offering this tour, Highlights + Hidden Gems, next week. We are asking the first few groups to stick around afterward to give us feedback so we can continue to improve the experience. And if this format really works, we may expand the concept to include other tour themes.
Sara Devine joined the Brooklyn Museum as Manager of Interpretive Materials in 2011. Now Director of Digital Engagement, she leads the Museum’s ASK Brooklyn Museum project, a Bloomberg Connects digital engagement initiative. A vocal visitor advocate, her expertise lies in crafting accessible and engaging visitor experiences and reaching audiences across platforms. She works with curators, designers, educators, technologists, and visitor services staff on all aspects of digital engagement. Sara is also a visiting assistant professor and curriculum coordinator at Pratt Institute’s School of Information for their new graduate program in Museums and Digital Culture. She was previously Senior Content Developer and Project Manager at Hilferty, a museum planning and design firm in Ohio, where she developed comprehensive interpretive master plans and exhibitions for a wide variety of museums. She has also worked at Assistant Curator, Special Exhibition at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello and as a Curatorial Assistant at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.