Visitor looking at artwork at John Russel exhibition at AGNSW

For the first significant survey of French impressionist John Russell’s work in 40 years, the Art Gallery of New South Wales wanted to experiment with a novel type of audio offering. This project involved the creation of an immersive gallery audio guide, as well as a new model for its delivery.

The John Russell Audio Experience aimed to give AGNSW visitors more than just a traditional audio tour. Taking influence from cinematic modes and assuming characteristics of the impressionist movement, visitors could wander from room to room, listening to an emotive landscape conveyed elegantly through the use of narration, sound design and music.

The underlying technology utilised a custom app on our proprietary platform and spatially-mapped indoor location system, designed and developed for museums. The app knew which room visitors were in and adjusted the audio commentary and score accordingly and seamlessly. The app UI was minimal, allowing visitors to remain focused on the art and the act of listening.

Challenge

AGNSW wanted an audio delivery platform that showcased the possibilities for an audio experience in an art museum. The platform needed to be consistent and scalable, starting small with the ability to be built out in the future for expansion into other galleries to support the organisation’s long-term goals for location-based audio offerings. To inaugurate the platform, we needed to create an audio experience that would push the limits of traditional guides and fully utilise the technical capacity of our delivery platform.

Approach

In close consultation with the gallery and the exhibition curators, we zeroed in on storytelling and soundscapes as the focus for developing the guide’s audio content. We incorporated environmental sound design to immerse visitors even more deeply in the rich storytelling, which included the use of acclaimed actor Hugo Weaving to voice the role of artist John Russell. Alongside developing the audio content, we developed the technical framework that would deliver the guide to visitors via a specially built app on our proprietary platform.

Solution

Working closely with the AGNSW’s digital engagement and curatorial teams, we developed the John Russell Audio Experience. This location-aware cinematic audio tour paired narrative and storytelling with an original musical score, transporting visitors to the world within the paintings. Our audio delivery platform provided the technical framework required to achieve a multi-layered and spatially immersive gallery audio experience.

Impact
91 % Visitors who expressed positive feedback after post-launch update to the audio experience. Satisfaction increased from 61%.
55 Minutes Average time visitors spent listening to the audio experience while wandering the exhibition.
83 % Of visitors listened to all 12 of the audio tracks. Visitor feedback showed the narration wasn’t too long or too short, it was just right.