Guest Post: iBeacons for Emerging Museum Professionals: Exploring the Bleeding Edge

This post comes to us from Cliff Stevens, Founder, President/CEO of CultureSpots. If you are interested in contributing to, please send an email outlining your idea along with a writing sample to phillyemp[at]


In the recently-released report “The Road To Results: Effective Practices for Building Arts Audiences” (download PDF) by Bob Harlow and The Wallace Foundation, you’ll notice that 2 of the 10 selected case studies are from Philadelphia’s own Fleisher Art Memorial and The Clay Studio.  Realizing that this study’s “Nine Effective Practices of Audience-Building Programs” at least partially emerged from the work these two important local cultural institutions are doing, reminded me that the museum professionals emerging here in Philadelphia are doing so among some of the most dynamic, effective and resourceful cultural institutions around.  What a fantastic place and time for museum professionals to be building their careers!

As I dove deeper into the report, with a particular focus on the 6th effective practice, “Provide Multiple Ways In”, I began toying with the instructive ideas presented here from the perspective of my own professional paradigm, and thinking about how museums could be using mobile technology (which was NOT included in the report) as one of the many potentially effective “ways in”.  (I’m Founder of CultureSpots here in Philadelphia, an innovative new mobile audio tour platform for museums and galleries)  And it got me thinking specifically about the iBeacon, a ‘shiny new object’ that’s been generating some buzz among a few museums who have begun experimenting with this bleeding-edge wireless technology shepherded by Apple.

This image from Skillbyte illustrates a potential use of iBeacon technology in an Art Gallery

So I thought I’d share a few examples here of the ways museums are using iBeacons since, as emerging museum professionals, you’re likely focused on learning new ways to grow your organizations’ audiences while also keeping an eye on how those audiences may be expecting to engage with your organizations via mobile devices.  NOTE:  For the record, my company’s technology does not utilize iBeacons (yet?) and I have not fully developed an informed opinion on the appropriateness of their utility within this context.

Antwerp Museum (Belgium) – videovendor webpage – “Prophets has created a prototype with iBeacon technology in the Rubens House in Antwerp. We´re breathing new life into the works of Rubens via a mobile application on smartphone and tablet. Visitors use cutting-edge technology to interact with classical art.”

Philips Museum (Netherlands) – videovendor webpage – “Mission Eureka, the interactive Philips Research adventure for children and adults in the Philips Museum. Based on important Philips inventions over the years, this innovative family game takes you on a journey of discovery in search of the technology behind these innovations. How does a light bulb work, what do X-rays do, and what does minimally invasive surgery involve? Bring out the inventor in you.”

Brooklyn Museum (NY, USA) – blog post – “We want to use iBeacon technology in the ASK app to give location information about the visitor as they ask a question. If we know what gallery the visitor is in—and even better, where in that gallery they are—we’ll be able to better answer their question.  To achieve this we placed beacon hardware in the galleries so that when a visitor asks a question the app detects the closest beacon; the visitor’s location is then transmitted to our audience engagement team who will answer queries.”

National Geographic Museum (DC, USA) – blog post – “The museum in downtown Washington has installed beacons throughout its “A New Age of Exploration: National Geographic at 125″ exhibit so it can deliver information relevant to a visitor, as well as track where visitors spend their time. That way exhibit designers can learn which displays are most popular, and which ones need to be tweaked to better appeal to visitors.”

I’ll continue to keep an eye on developments at this convergence of museum exhibition design, visitor experience and audience development utilizing iBeacon technology.  And hopefully with the brief foray above as an introduction, you’ll have an interest in doing so too.

These are exciting times.

Thank you, be well, and enjoy!

Cliff Stevens

Founder, President/CEO of CultureSpots


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One response to “Guest Post: iBeacons for Emerging Museum Professionals: Exploring the Bleeding Edge

  1. Pingback: A Reading From: The New York Times | Philadelphia Emerging Museum Professionals·

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