Recently I visited a lot of venues over three days. At Westminster Abbey, Apsley House, HMS Belfast and the Churchill War Rooms we were given hand held audio guides which worked with varying degrees of success. We noticed that wherever they were being 'successfully' (extensively) used, they turned most visitors into zombies. My travelling companion made the observation in the cartoon above.
I know that audio guides are a good way to control visitor flow and visit times, ensuring people get an overview while also pushing them through sites at a suitable speed. They can provide a reliable service not always possible unless you employ a large pool of highly trained staff, such as language options, BSL on video screens, child friendly tours. They can be a flexible tool, such as at Apsley House, offering visitors a choice of tours depending on their specific interests. They allow historical venues to be free from obtrusive signs. From the visitor's point of view, their experience can also be enhanced by a good audio guide, with music, interviews from behind the scenes staff, and video clips.
However, using so many audio guides in a short time highlighted two - to me - unpleasant side effects. The first is how much people were attuned only to the audio guide, to the detriment of all else. The second was the isolation of the user.
The poor art Ork isn't having a good day. I wonder if that's the staff nick name for the curator of art?
(The original photo is from Nottingham Contemporary, and pinched from Facebook.)
When you are asked to locate something uncatalogued from the archives, and you know entering the uncatalogued area will involve getting covered in dust, and even using a torch.
You are given a brief description, but it could be one of a few things of a similar make and design, so have to use a bit of common sense and guesswork.
You emerge sometime later, dusty, breathless and with the feeling that you've managed to leave a mess that will anooy the next person to use the uncatalogued section.
It turns out you found the right thing!
And the requester then asks, in all seriousness, why it took you so long.
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