Title:Voices:FAMSF: Testing a New Model of Interpretive Technology at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
Authors:Catherine Girardeau, Alexa Beaman, Sheila Pressley, Jason Reinier
Publication:MW2015: Museums and the Web 2015

In this paper, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (FAMSF) and Earprint Productions discuss how a mobile app that enhances visitor learning and engagement in a museum setting—Voices:FAMSF—can also position visitors as co-creators of their museum experiences. It shows how the app correlates—in design, content, and functionality—with trending museum educational practices that give visitors agency over, and a voice in, their learning in a museum setting. Thus, visitors are able to choose how, when, and where they will experience educational content and participate in the interpretive process. The paper also discusses why FAMSF chose an open-source framework to build Voices:FAMSF, and how museums benefit from open-source development.

FAMSF came to Earprint Productions with a challenge: use mobile technology in new ways to enhance, rather than detract from, the very experience of being in the presence of great art.

The solution Earprint and the Museums arrived at is an immersive soundscape app, Voices:FAMSF, that interprets key outdoor sculptures and architecture at both the de Young and the Legion of Honor. The app is location sensitive (audio content is driven by the viewer’s location via GPS), customizable (viewers choose to hear their own “mix” of museum voices, community voices, or both), and participatory (it allows visitors to co-create content by recording comments in response to museum-curated prompts).