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published: March 2004
analytic scripts updated:  October 28, 2010

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Museums and the Web 2003 Papers

Multimedia Tour Programme at Tate Modern

Gillian Wilson, Tate Modern, United Kingdom



TheTate Modern's Multimedia Tour programme includes three different types of handheld tours: a Multimedia Highlights Tour, a tour in British Sign Language, and a Collections Tour. Through both quantitative and qualitative evaluation we are gaining valuable knowledge about visitors' thoughts on handheld tours in museums. This presentation explores the ways handheld tours relate to other gallery activities and fulfill many of Tate Modern's interpretation aims. It goes on to review content approaches that work for our visitors and those that don't. Particular areas discussed are opinions on interactive content such as texting and games, artists' contributions, links between audio and visual, use of film clips, and provision of text-based information.

Keywords: Handheld, multimedia, PDA, interpretation, gallery education, interaction, texting, sign language


In his recent book Me++ The Cyborg Self and the Networked City, William J. Mitchell writes about how reliant we have become on networks and, increasingly, on mobile, wireless access to these systems of information and support. Through connection to global phone systems or the Internet, our traditional ways of communication have expanded to allow easy coverage across the world.

I am inseparable from my ever-expanding, ever-changing networks... Not only are these networks essential for my survival they also constitute and structure my channels of perception and agency - my means of knowing and acting on the world. They continuously and inescapably mediate my entire social, economic, and cultural existence. And they are as crucial to cognition as my neurons.

William J. Mitchell, Me++ (2003)

Although opinions may vary on the extent to which one becomes part of such systems, it seems inescapable that wireless access to many forms of information will become more widely available day by day.

Over the last two years at Tate Modern, we have trialled a system of gallery interpretation which connects handheld computers to a wireless network and provides multimedia information, communication and access to database-stored texts. Although by no means the interpretive staple at museums and galleries, similar forms of interpretation are emerging with increasing regularity. This paper will explain our reasons for embarking on such pilot projects, will describe the most recent Multimedia Tour programme that has taken place in the gallery, and will explore approaches towards developing content that are effective in this medium.

Mobile Gallery Learning

Many of our visitors take part in low-tech, object-based gallery activities which are used to add to people's learning experience as they make their way around the space, the key always being to make sure that visitors' attention is focused on the artworkather than solely on the game they are playing. We know that people enjoy such means of interpretation, and we have moved some way towards defining pedagogies or methodologies which inform these learning resources. For example, at Tate Modern we have researched the kinds of game strategies that work to help families engage more closely with art on display, and as a result we produce activities such as card games or matching games which families can borrow to use when they visit the gallery. In our schools programme we have developed carefully thought-out teaching methods which are learner-centred and involve the use of activities and the handling of materials to encourage students to actively engage with art.

The games give you a challenge. We wouldn't have stopped without the games.

Visitor comment on self-directed family activities at Tate Modern

When we have been developing the multimedia tours at Tate Modern, we have often thought about the learning strategies employed in such mobile games, and how they could be adapted for a mobile multimedia platform. Indeed, the new research initiatives into mobile learning often express concern that study in this area should be focused on just digital initiatives; school children, for example have always revised for exams on the bus, and learning in museums has always been a mobile experience (MOBIlearn project, www.mobilearn.org/download/results/guidelines.pdf)

Over the last two years we have been researching visitors' responses to low-tech gallery activities and other forms of gallery interpretation and to our handheld multimedia tours, and have made links between these areas of programming. While the multimedia tours draw on the research that has been done on these other forms of gallery interpretation, its use of new technologies does demand that we uncover some new strategies to bring into play when developing content, and we are also beginning to discover what some of these strategies might be.

It is a very particular experience that visitors will have as they walk through the gallery with a network-linked mobile device - different even from using a multimedia resource in a gallery kiosk. Using a mobile device in the gallery means that visitors must negotiate their way around the space and around other visitors, while at the same time looking at artworks and absorbing various media -a complex task, but one which visitors have approached with relish.

Tate Modern Principles of Interpretation

Since Tate Modern opened in 2000, the interpretation programme has developed a core set of principles which inform all kinds of interpretation activity we carry out in the gallery. The Multimedia Tours fulfill many of these key ideas and, from the gallery's agenda, can provide a good system for gallery interpretation.

  • Interpretation is at the heart of the gallery's mission.
  • Works of art do not have self-evident meanings.
  • We believe that works of art have a capacity for multiple readings and that interpretation should make visitors aware of the subjectivity of any interpretive text.
  • Interpretation embraces a willingness to experiment with new ideas.
  • We recognise the validity of diverse audience responses to works of art.
  • Interpretation should incorporate a wide spectrum of voices and opinions from inside and outside the institution.
  • Visitors are encouraged to link unfamiliar artworks with their everyday experience.

Art galleries provide a space for a diverse range of learning experiences to take place, from the gaining of knowledge and acquisition of new skills to the emotional encounter with an artwork. Our role as gallery educators and curators is to find ways to encourage and nurture these experiences, and our hope is that the multimedia tours play a part towards doing this.

Multimedia Tour Programme 2003-04

Following up our first successful pilot project in the summer of 2002, we have embarked on a second trial of handheld tours in 2003 and 04. Both phases of the programme have been sponsored by Bloomberg.

Phase Two introduces three new types of tour: a Multimedia Highlights Tour designed to appeal to the 16-25 age group, a British Sign Language Tour designed for deaf people, and a Collections Tour that provides different levels of digital information about all artworks in the Collections displays.

The Multimedia Highlights Tour is specifically designed for the 16-25 age group which responded particularly positively to the first phase of the trials held in summer 2002. It focuses on 19 artworks in the Still Life/Object/Real Life and Landscape/Matter/Environment displays. Bringing together audio, video, image and text as well as interactive features such as games and communication between visitors, this tour extends the content we were able to provide the year previously. Content is designed to be stored on a central server and is accessed through an 802.11b wireless network which has been installed in the gallery for the purposes of this project; alternatively, the content can be stored locally on the PDAs and the network used only for bookmarking and peer-to-peer applications in addition to general tour management and security.

Tate Tour Screen Shot

Figure 1: Home page screen

The interactive map provides a way of navigating through the gallery space, as does the select work option. The jukebox plays music which relates to works on display and Tate txt is a messaging function between individual PDAs. Gallery info provides information about other membership details, gallery events etc., as well as picture credits.

In this pilot we wanted to develop interactive features, one of which is the texting function. This allows visitors to send their views on artworks to other people taking the tour. Visitors are also encouraged to take part in opinion polls in front of selected works - such as voting on their first impressions of the Rothko room - and are able to track the percentages of other visitors who agree or disagree. Another feature is the facility to play music from a jukebox through their headphones, and play games such as Exquisite Bodies which was invented by the Surrealist artists, and involves visitors taking turns to piece together an imaginary creature from different body parts, without knowing what the previous contributions have been.

Game screen shot

Figure 2: Surrealist game

We are also trialing a new digital British Sign Language version in the second phase of the Multimedia Tour programme. This tour plays video footage of an interpreter signing information about selected works in the Collection displays. The aim of this trial is to develop a tour that will give British Sign Language users the opportunity to take their own personal tour of the Collection.

Guide signing in BSL

Figure 3: BSL tour

The third tour is the Collections Tour, which allows visitors to access textual information about all of the 300-plus works in the Collection displays. It is linked to Tate's centralised information management system and brings a wealth of additional information into the gallery spaces for the first time.

Developing a Handheld Tour

The three tours have been developed in association with Antenna Audio, who have much experience in providing audio tours for museums, galleries and other cultural organisations, and are increasingly creating mobile multimedia solutions to fit with their clients' requirements.

The Multimedia Highlights tour at Tate Modern launched in mid-October 2003. It took a period of approximately six months to develop from brainstorming the first ideas to allowing visitors to use the completed tour in the gallery. Tate Modern interpretation staff worked with a creative and technical team from Antenna Audio to develop content ideas and approaches that would make full use of the possible technical applications offered by the wireless system. We also worked with an advisory group of young people of a similar age to our target audience.

Much time was taken up securing image and audio rights and sourcing image prints or digital files. A script went through several drafts; then story boards were created for the programming team from Antenna to work from when putting together the digital content. The interface was tested with visitors, as were sections of the tour; however, this is one area which could have been extended had we had more time. Again, we needed to leave more time for implementing technical systems and for testing the handheld devices with the wireless network. The network was set up particularly for this project by Tate Modern's Information Systems team and Antenna Audio, and there were some teething problems which occurred due to the complex nature of information systems and security necessary in a large organisation.

Distribution desk staff were trained, and then the Multimedia Highlights tour was ready to launch to the public. The BSL Tour followed during November 2003, and the Collections Tour is currently being refined to try out with the public during March-May 2004.



Every visitor who has used one of the multimedia tours has been asked to fill in a questionnaire which asks a range of demographic questions as well as about their experience of the project.

An independent professional evaluator, Susie Fisher, carried out qualitative research on the Highlights Tour and the BSL Tour during December 2003. Her evaluation consisted of three focus groups, one of which looked exclusively at the BSL tour, and three accompanied gallery visits where visitors using a PDAs were accompanied through the gallery as they used the Highlights Tour. Both users and non-users were included in the sample (the non-users were asked to try out the tour but wouldn't have chosen to do it otherwise).

A PhD student has made a smaller study of visitors using the Highlights Tour.

We also carried out a full evaluation of the first pilot multimedia tour we produced in 2002, and we have drawn on that when creating the new tours (Tellis and Proctor, 2003; Susie Fisher, 2003).

General results

Between 14 October 2003 and 15 February 2004 (a period of 4 months), 1,569 visitors returned questionnaires about the multimedia tours, so we can infer from this figure that this is the minimum number of visitors who have taken part in the tour programme.

The average amount of time spent with the Highlights Tour was 70 minutes. Results confirmed that 87% of the people who tried the tour thought it had improved their visit to Tate Modern, and 57% felt they had stayed in the gallery longer than they would have if they hadn't taken the tour.

Successful approaches towards developing content

Lessons learned from the first pilot multimedia tour we produced in 2002 were that we should adopt a consistent approach towards the layers of content offered throughout the tour experience. Our first multimedia tour was very much a trial project, and we wanted to experiment with a range of content approaches although we did not have much idea what visitors would prefer. Each artwork included, therefore, used different media; such as a video interpretation, audio plus contextual images, purely text, or an interactive game. The interpretation would begin when the play button was hit, leaving the visitor with no clue beforehand what might unfold on the screen and through the headphones. We found that this resulted in the tour's being perceived as rather disjointed and that visitors wanted to see a more coherent approach in these kinds of projects.

For the current Highlights Tour we have therefore offered a sub-menu of options which visitors can choose from for each artwork on the tour.

Tour Menu

Figure 4: Sub-menu for Cornelia Parker stop

The menu options are not numbered, so people can choose them in any order, and indeed each option can stand alone. The option at the top of each menu however is a short, information-based introduction to the artwork and artist, and gives a basic level of information which will help towards further understanding of the work.

The options below present information-based or interactive interpretation which makes use of various media, but which is repeated as visitors progress through the tour, allowing them to recognise an interpretation strategy that is applied to more than one artwork.

Titles of the menu options were devised to give a clue about the possible content of that section, and to intrigue and appeal to our target audience of young people. Visitors choose which option to take according to their mood and what they want from the tour. Those who are serious and want information about the artwork will choose a commentary-based option, such as Abstract or not? The artist speaks, while those looking for a little more fun will choose an interactive game, texting or the juke box. Often, the tendency for a visitor is to pick the first option, then to flick through the list of others until they find something that interests them, or a strategy they have enjoyed before.


In previous research on audioguides, we uncovered strong opinions on which kind of voices are best to use within audio tours. As discussed above, Tate Modern wants to provide a range of voices and opinions that discuss artworks on display, so careful thought went into the people chosen to be interviewed and the kinds of voices that read out scripted parts.

Information and guidance sections of the tour are narrated by a consistent voice. We chose a young narrator with a London accent, who we thought would appeal to our target audience. The narration has drawn both positive and negative comments, but, on the whole, it appeals to young visitors and sets a good tone.

The most popular voice to use is the artist's - particularly when this is accompanied by an on-screen visual. We have used film clips of artists Cornelia Parker and Mark Dion discussing their work on display, as well as an archive recording of Jackson Pollock energetically dripping paint onto a canvas, accompanied by his own voice-over elaborating on his ideas and technique.

Visitors welcome the input of a range of commentators, either well-known or not, from different professions and backgrounds. The Highlights Tour includes audio opinions from characters such as an army bomb expert and a marine biologist, commenting on Cornelia Parker's artwork of a blown-up shed, and Damien Hirst's work that shows exotic shells now devoid of the animals that once lived there. It also shows vox-pop interviews with gallery visitors who discuss Rothko's Seagram Murals.

The visitors' own voices become apparent through interactive features such as opinion polls and texting, discussed later. Young people in particular want more of this; they want to feel empowered to have their own opinions about works of art and not to be merely spoon-fed prepared information.


The juke box option provides visitors with two ways in to hearing music that relates to particular works. They can choose either to start with the music and then find the work, or to start with the artwork and then listen to related music. The jukebox is seen by our visitors as interesting and fun, but they don't want music to be an unrelated soundtrack; it must have a connection to the art on display.

The Juke Box, there are songs which are associated with art. You don't know what you're expecting. After hearing the songs, you are curious to check out the art.

Visitor comment


Audio commentary accompanied by visual images is a highly popular strategy for engaging visitors with artworks included in the tour. Most visitors wanted us to continue using this kind of approach, and indeed to have more of it. In content sections, regarding works such as The Four Seasons by Cy Twombly, we composed a combined audio and image piece which both zoomed in on details of the work as they were discussed and provided a range of contextual images relating to the work and what might have inspired it. A key point learned here is that visitors need to be told when to look down at the screen; otherwise, they complain of missing visual interpretive material. We also gave them pointers as to when to look back at the work, to remind them not to view the PDA screen as a television programme, but instead as a gallery interpretation tool where the focus is always the artwork.

Zooming in to on-screen details is a successful tactic employed to help people quickly locate a particular detail of an artwork. (For a deeper discussion of approaches to documentary cinematic techniques, see Zancanaro et al. Using Cinematic Techniques in a Multimedia Museum Guide, paper from Museums and the Web 2003.)

Complex artworks can be successfully decoded by providing an interactive interface which we titled Touch and Listen. This approach was used to interpret Joseph Beuys Lightning with Stag in its Glare, Cornelia Parker's Cold, Dark, Matter: An Exploded View, and Kurt Schwitters' Picture of Spatial Growths - Picture with Two Small Dogs. Each work is reproduced on screen, with various elements highlighted. When visitors touch a highlighted area, that detail appears larger on screen, and an audio section about it begins. This allows visitors to choose which parts of the work they want to hear more about and also gives them a physical interactive experience with the PDA device.

Tour Screen Shot - touch and listen

Figure 5: 'Touch and listen' screen for Cornelia Parker


In the first pilot multimedia tour at Tate Modern, we were concerned that the use of video clips would draw visitors' attention to the PDA screen at the expense of the artwork, and we found that visitors worried about this too. During this second multimedia tour programme, visitors have been positive about the video clips used, as long as they are short and directly related to what they are looking at in the gallery space. In particular, video which reveals the creative production of an artwork can be profoundly revealing:

The video is really interesting, Pollock, Jack the Dripper. You could see how he did it and he was talking to me.

Visitor comment

Other video clips feature artists talking about their work, and are equally popular, as mentioned above.


We included two interactive games in the Highlights Tour, as well as two sets of opinion polls where visitors were asked a question such as 'Is this art?' and then saw how others had responded to the same question. This was successful in getting people to think about the question that had been asked and then encouraging them to think about both sides of an argument as they could instantly compare their answers to what other visitors thought. A lesson was learned here from the first pilot project where we found visitors were frustrated by not being able to see other people's answers to the opinion poll included in that tour.

The games relate to 'Hyena Stomp' by Frank Stella, and Lobster Telephone by Salvador Dalì. If they are successful, games reveal an insight about the work through having the visitors doing something similar themselves. The colour and line game, exploring Hyena Stomp, does this by showing the complexity of the composition as well as challenging the visitor to make personal creative judgements. The Dalì Exquisite Bodies game is not seen to relate as closely to the work. On the whole, visitors appreciate the games and see them primarily as something light-hearted and fun, and perhaps involving a degree of thought. We need to do more research into the learning outcomes of such interactives, as gaming aspects to an interpretation programme can encourage people to learn without their necessarily realizing they are doing this. We do know, however, that visitors want more games and more interactives, and like a balance between such approaches and those that are more information-based.

Development time spent on interactive games needs to be increased, and we need to test the games at various stages during this process. Non-digital familygames take us around six months from the first brainstorming sessions to final versions, and go through a continuous process of refinement and adaption. There is a concern that games accessed on a handheld interpretation tour can be seen as slightly cursory add-ons which are there just for a bit of fun for visitors: however, their learning and entertainment potential is much greater than this.

Some Problematic Areas

Choice of work

The current multimedia Highlights Tour directs people to look at particular works, and essentially curates a new selection of artworks to be viewed by the visitor in the broader context of the collections displays. We have had some feedback which suggests visitors would like to have more choice about which works to look at, as they are concerned that by following the tour in its entirety they are missing works they would otherwise be interested in. This is a problem that arises with any selective gallery guide, but which can perhaps be resolved by marketing a range of tours on different, clearly-outlined themes or subjects. Our Highlights Tour may not be placed clearly enough as something which contains highlights and people may expect a more comprehensive experience.

The database-driven Collections Tour, which we are currently testing and which links to the Tate collections information system, would also resolve this problem, allowing visitors to choose the works they would like to look at and to view text information available in the collections database on their PDA. However, the young visitors from our focus group samples would be likely to find text-based content dull after the multimedia content they have experienced on the Highlights tour.

In contrast, many visitors, particularly those who are not experienced in visiting galleries, are thankful for a device which guides them through the displays and gives them a focus in an otherwise fairly unmediated space.

Informative, entertaining and fascinating and gives out more intensity (given that I am not a professional and tend to get distracted when I wander without a guide). Good idea!

Visitor comment


There are currently two ways visitors can locate works included in the multimedia Highlights Tour: using an interactive map which highlights rooms that contain an included artwork, or spotting a special multimedia tour symbol and number printed on wall labels next to the artworks. Visitors can touch the relevant area of the map to reach the interpretive material for the work they've chosen, or they can go into a key pad to input manually the number they've spotted on the gallery wall.

Tour Screen Shot -- Gallery Map

Figure 6: Interactive gallery map

Currently, there are several problems with the tour navigation and for visitors matching up themselves, the PDA screen and an artwork. The wall symbols are small and hard to spot, but it is difficult to resolve this problem as the aesthetics of the gallery space would be compromised by a large symbol, potentially distracting from the artwork. If visitors are randomly walking through the gallery, it is difficult for them to locate where they are on the on-screen gallery map. The obvious solution to this problem is to include positioning software in the system, and we have plans to do this for the Collections Tour we are currently developing.

It was confusing. I didn't know which place I should go. There's no numbering to the rooms.

Visitor comment

It will be very nice to have a virtual tour. The camera would lead you in and takes you to the work of art, guiding you.

Visitor comment

The result of the current problematic navigation is that visitors tend to look at either artworks that are in the first rooms they enter, or works that they can easily find. They feel that this slightly random process means they don't have a chance to choose the artworks they are most interested in, and suggest we include a screen of images of artworks included in the tour so they can pick what they would like to look at this way.



One of the home page options is called Tate Txt, and provides an opportunity for visitors to communicate with one another through a form of text messaging. This peer-to-peer application is made possible through the wireless network. One of Tate Modern's main interpretation principles is to encourage visitors to talk about art and to equip them with ideas which enable them to hold carefully-considered opinions (see the Interpretation Principles section above). We were aware of the solitary nature of interpretation tools such as audio guides and wanted to experiment with a system which enabled visitors to share their thoughts and ideas. After much debate, we decided to implement a messaging system which used preset lists of phases that could be chosen and combined to make comments about artworks or other more general issues, often in a quirky and amusing way. We didn't include an on-screen keyboard or other means of free texting as we were concerned that visitors wouldn't use it to talk about artworks or would send inappropriate messages to one another. In hindsight, we think this may have been the wrong choice; responses have told us people feel very limited by the preset phrases and want to be able to text freely as they are used to doing with their mobile phones.

Tour Screen Shot - Tate text

Figure 7: Tate Txt

In the UK, texting (or SMS) is very popular, and young people in particular have made this system of communication their own, creating a type of condensed new language. The system our multimedia tours offer is not seen as texting in this sense. A solution may be to call our system of communication by a different name, as Tate Txt has set up an expectation with our visitors that the end activity does not fulfil. To describe the activity as a kind of word game may be truer to its nature.

Slightly more people took part in the multimedia tour as part of a group or couple (48%), than did on their own (40%). We know that visitors often want to communicate with one another as they're taking part in the multimedia tour, and we are keen to continue to find ways to make this more possible. Visitors have commented that they find headphones awkward as they essentially cut them off from their companion and are difficult to take on and off. Single ear pieces may be a more satisfactory solution. Susie Fisher's research also shows that it is hard for visitors to co-ordinate their menu choices with one another and hence to progress through the tour at the same pace. An interesting project designed to get around this problem of isolation while using a handheld was trialled at Filoli, a historic house in California. Here, visitors were able to 'eavesdrop' on the information being accessed by other visitors' PDAs, thus allowing them to interact more successfully with accompanying friends (Woodruff et al. MW2002).

Technical issues

Visitors have many fewer technical problems using the multimedia tour system than they did during the first pilot project we ran in 2002. Many of the technical flaws have been ironed out by new developments with the technology, such as better PDAs being available and different adjustments to the software applications used. It is not the intent of this paper to provide a detailed technical analysis, but a brief description of the system used follows.

  • We use 25 Toshiba e750 PDAs, and are currently trying out the new Toshiba e800s, which are functioning even better than the e750s. Improvements from 2002 have been that the PDAs have faster processors, and include integrated wireless cards which improve system stability, responsiveness and ergonomics. The PDA is also robust enough for us to dispense with a protective case.
  • Content is programmed in Macromedia Flash, version 6, and triggered via a Flash projector file to run in the Antenna Media Player(TM) rather than requiring a Flash plug-in to Internet Explorer. The operating system used is PocketPC 2003.
  • Antenna Audio have developed the Antenna Multimedia System(TM) which resides client and server-side and operates with the Proximity Platform(TM) from PanGo Networks.
  • The wireless system is standard 802.11b, running on a virtual LAN.

The server computer is a Toshiba Magnia 300 Series(TM).

Thanks to Toshiba's hardware sponsorship of the project, we've had the opportunity to work closely with them to resolve network continuity issues across such a large area and complex installation as we have at Tate Modern. The e800, Toshiba's latest released PDA, has dramatically improved network stability and device responsiveness, and will allow us to develop Tate's multimedia tour possibilities even further in future.

We are finding out. however, to what extent technical faults disrupt our visitors and take away from the learning experience. Even small delays while an image appears on screen or a video downloads from the server draw visitors' attention away from the art experience and back to the technology. Ideally we want them to forget about the functioning of the system and to fully engage with the art.

The interface design of handheld tours presents an interesting dichotomy: we need a design which draws attention away from itself, yet is intuitive and clear from the start. We therefore kept a clear and uncluttered screen, using icons people would already recognise from the Web. Responses to the interface have been overwhelmingly positive, with just a few complaints about the volume control being difficult to adjust and the back button not working all the time in the first release of the tour (these problems have now been fixed).

British Sign Language Tour

Deaf visitors responded very similarly to hearing visitors on most of the key content issues: they wanted to hear from artists themselves, appreciated the video clips, enjoyed getting involved in the opinion polls, found it hard to orientate themselves in the gallery. We had included mainly similar content in the sign language version of the tour, but had to completely rewrite the script to fit with British Sign Language, which has a different conceptual and linguistic structure to English. The script was written in English but in such a way that a signer could easily translate phrases and meanings into BSL.

However, some issues were more salient for deaf people. The narrator of the BSL Tour is a Tate Modern curator, a hearing person who uses BSL fluently. Several deaf people questioned this choice of narrator, feeling that it would be more appropriate to employ a deaf person for this task. However, deaf people were overwhelming positive about the provision of such tours in galleries and were delighted to see interpretation in their first language rather than having to rely on interpretation in English or wait for a monthly BSL-interpreted gallery tour. The BSL Tour is available whenever they visit, something much appreciated, and not before its time!

It's great to have a BSL Tour Model. I would come here in my own time and study all around the gallery. Thank you.

Visitor comment

As deaf people and students of Art, some of our deaf visitors were more serious about content, wanting more informational content and less play. They were very sensitive to fluctuations in speed and rhythm. For example, if a weak PDA processor or a network connectivity problem slows down the signing on screen, the BSL user can experience real comprehension difficulties. The BSL Tour relies on video much more heavily than the Highlights Tour does, so any slowness in playing the content is a real irritation.

Collections Tour

The Collections Tour draws content from Tate's centralised collection information system, meaning we can choose which existing database information we would like to have accessed on the PDAs in the gallery. Currently this is mainly text information, but as more content is added to Tate's collections information system, this can also be available in the gallery. The Collections Tour has the potential to act as a framework for a whole range of customised tours, with relevant content sitting on the database and being accessed according to the visitor's age, interests or previous choices.

This tour is currently being developed, and visitors' responses to it will be explored and recorded. We found out from our latest research that some visitors would like to access interpretation on all works on display rather than following a more limited highlights tour; access to collections database information could go some way to fulfilling this request. Visitors have also commented that they'd like to be able to key in an artist's name to find out where those works are on display and get more information about them - another task that the Collections Tour could carry out.

The wireless network was extended for this project to cover all of floors 3 and 5: Tate Modern's entire permanent collection display. Information from the collection information system is stored in a central database on the tour system's server and delivered wirelessly to visitors in the gallery. Visitors key in search terms, such as an artist's name, through a telephone-style keypad. The system then searches the database and reports its results as a text list on the PDA screen. From here, the visitor can choose to read a range of texts on the artist or artwork, including wall labels, catalogue entries and short essays.


Our research points to the recommendation that Tate Modern continue with its programme of multimedia tours as, generally, they are working well and are very much appreciated by our visitors. This mobile means of interpretation adds to visitors' learning experience in the gallery and enhances their engagement with artworks on display. Fitting in with many of our interpretation principles, the multimedia tours extend the gallery's interpretation agenda as well as the visitors' experience, and take our pluralistic, activity-based approach towards learning to a new digital dimension.


Fisher, Susie (2002). The Multimedia Tour at Tate Modern: Is this the Way of the Future? Unpublished findings, 2002.

Fisher, Susie (2003). Gaming as a Gallery Interpretation Strategy for Visitors: A Visitor Evaluation of the Start Programme. Unpublished findings, 2003

Fisher, Susie (2004) Multimedia and BSL Tours at Tate Modern. Unpublished findings 2004

Mitchell, William J. (2003). Me++ The Cyborg Self and the Networked City. MA: The MIT Press.

MOBIlearn project Web site accessible at http://www.mobilearn.org (accessed on 23rd February 2004)

Proctor, N. and C. Tellis (2003). The State of the Art in Museum Handhelds in 2003. Museums and the Web 2003: Selected papers from an international conferencehttp://www.archimuse.com/mw2003/papers/proctor/proctor.html

Woodruff,A., P.M. Aoki, R. E. Grinter, A. Hurst, M. H Szymanski, and J. D. Thornton. (2002). Eavesdropping on Electronic Guidebooks: Observing Learning Resources in Shared Listening EnvironmentsIn Museums and the Web 2002: Selected papers from an international conference. D Bearman, D. & J. Trant. (eds.). Pittsburgh: Archives & Museum Informatics. 21-30. Available http://www.archimuse.com/mw2002/papers/woodruff/woodruff.html

Zancanaro, M., O. Stock and I. Alfaro. (2003). Using Cinematic Techniques in a Multimedia Museum Guide. In Museums and the Web 2003: Selected papers from an international conference. D. Bearman and J. Trant (eds). Toronto: Archives & Museum Informatics. 209-216. Available http://www.archimuse.com/mw2003/papers/zancanaro/zancanaro.html