Audio tours are an excellent way to convey information to your visitors who learn best through the spoken word. You can also use them to provide more in-depth information about a subject.
Here are some tips for creating an effective audio tour at your museum:
Keep It Short!
No one wants to listen to a curator drone on and on about a historic event or piece of artwork. Think of audio tours as museum labels – shorter is better, and more effective. Choose only the most important information to share with your visitors. Try to keep each segment under one minute.
Break Up Information
Rather than creating one long audio program on a broad subject, break it up into sections so visitors can choose what part they want to learn about. For example, instead of recording one segment on life as a pioneer, record an overview with additional options for visitors to learn more about open hearth cooking, building a cabin in the wilderness, the journey west, and self-sufficiency on the Frontier.
Create a series of audio tours that feature relevant oral history recordings, vintage music, or news broadcasts of the period. Or feature behind-the-scenes information about some aspect of the exhibit, such as the provenance of a specific artifact or commentary on its restoration and conservation. Record the Curator explaining how an item was donated to the museum or how certain pieces were selected for an exhibition. Consider a special set of recordings aimed specifically at kids.
Tone of Voice
Most audio tours will feature scripts read by the museum staff. Be careful about your tone. Make it lively and exciting! Don’t simply read from your script – make it sound like a performance. Study nightly news anchors for some pointers on intonation and tone.
Vary the Voices
Ask a variety of people to record your audio tours for you. No one wants to listen to the same voice speak in gallery after gallery. If you plan to read excerpts from a diary or oral history transcript, use one voice to represent each person.
Some of the best audio tours are those that incorporate real sounds in the background. When visiting one of Newport, Rhode Island’s grand mansions, the audio tour featured the clanking of forks and glasses in the dining room and quartet music in the ballroom. It really brought the space to life for visitors, who could imagine the rooms bustling with activity during the Gilded Age.