How visitors gifted experiences for each other

In 2018, we tested the Gift app at University of Nottingham Museum of Archaeology. Participants were encouraged to arrive as they would normally visit a museum – alone, with a partner or in a group – and were free to use the app on their own smartphone or borrow one. They were asked to explore the museum, then use the app to create a digital museum experience for another participant and unwrap any experiences that might be gifted to them.

We worked with museum staff to create “seed content” for the app: this allowed users to create experiences using either the seed content, content they created themselves, or a mix of both. In particular, the app asked users to create experiences that consisted of three museum exhibits: one as the starting point for the experience, one as the middle, and one as the end.

In practice, visitors were much more inclined to create museum experiences built entirely from their own images and words, rather than using the content supplied by the museum. However, some seed content was appreciated as it provided an example to show visitors what sort of images and text might be appropriate. While some visitors approached the app as a way of creating and receiving tours of the museum, most thought of it as a game or a challenge and were excited about having to explore the museum to track down the exhibits that were gifted to them. Unfortunately, some of these visitors were disappointed with how easy it was to find the exhibits in the compact museum, but were still positive about the potential for the app to encourage them to explore museums in ways they would not do otherwise.