competition winners 400x286Over the years some smaller museum and heritage organisations have put together audio tours without the help and guidance of the audio guide companies.  What they lack in technical resources and budget, they often make up in passion and enthusiasm to tell the story of a much-loved site.

Earlier this year, Antenna Audio took the unusual step of encouraging, rather than discouraging these (possible) competitors at the low end of the market.  The London office developed a "Create Your Own Audio Guide" competition, open to smaller UK museum and heritage organisations.  The competition was launched at the Museums and Heritage Show in London in May this year, and closed on 1 September. These organisations were invited to create their own audio tour, using Antenna Audio’s new online XP-Updater™ software and their award winning XP-Classic™ digital audio players.

Twenty museums and historic sites responded, from as far afield as north Wales (Bodelwyddan Castle) and Scotland (Summerlee Museum of Scottish Industrial Life).  A jury of eight professionals from the sector included; Kerry Bishop, Director Visitor Services, Royal Collection, Rhiannon Goddard, Interpretation Programme Manager, Historic Royal Palaces, Louise Govier, MLA Museums Clore Leadership Fellow, Anne Fletcher, Director, Fletcher - Teckman Consultancy Ltd, Ann Curtis, Editor of Museum [Insider], Alyson Webb, Creative Director, EMEA, Antenna Audio, Sam Billington, Lead Sound Designer, Antenna Audio and Michelle Penn, Writer, Antenna Audio.

The candidates didn't just submit their tours, however.  They sent along a clear summary of their target audience, and articulated the objectives the tours were meant to achieve -- key factors in a successful audio guide project but often overlooked by clients!  The short list was narrowed down to three; a "ghost" tour of Bodelwyddan Castle in Wales, a "highlights" tour of the local history collections at the Chertsey Museum and a "family" tour at the Chiltern Open Air Museum in Buckinghamshire.

Although all three finalists had their champions on the Jury, the Chiltern Open Air Museum was chosen as the winner.  Their tour -- produced on a shoestring and voiced by the volunteer guides of the museum (and their children!) -- was delightful.  The museum is an amazing collection of vernacular buildings from Buckinghamshire collected over the decades, and the tour helped put the people back into the rooms, adding warmth and life to the static displays.  The Jury particularly loved the sound effects of flushing loos from the Public Convenience that is one of the museum's star attractions.  The children of one of the volunteer guides featured on the audio segment devoted to the Iron Age Hut in the collection.  For many of the Jury, the segment produced for a post-war Mass-Produced Home was a highlight -- a clever mixture of funny, babbling voices of the family who once lived there.

Antenna Audio’s Creative Director for EMEA, Alyson Webb, stated, ”what shone through with Chiltern’s tour was a great passion for their site and the desire to engage everybody in that experience.  It was a real joy to listen to."

Emma Parsons, part of the winning project team, said: “We are all very proud of what we have achieved. The equipment we have won is well beyond what a museum of our size could hope to have and we know that the use of audio tours greatly enhances visitor experience.”

The Chiltern Open Air Museum has now won everything needed to get the audio tour up and running on site, with fifteen XP-Classic™ players with charging unit and license to the XP-Updater™ software. The competiton was held in association with Omnimusic, who provided access to their music collections.

Visitors wishing to take the new tour will be able to do so in the spring of 2010 when the site reopens again for a new season.

Ann Curtis
Managing Director, Heritage Solution Ltd
Editor, Museum Insider

(left to right) Emma Parsons, Museum Volunteer, Melissa Maynard, Education Officer, Jessica Vincent, Antenna Audio