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How To Increase In-Person Visits With Virtual Museum Tours

Kyla Ball

Museums worldwide are finding innovative ways to enhance their visitor experiences both on and offline. One such innovation is the virtual museum tour. Perhaps counter-intuitively, a virtual tour of your museum, art gallery or heritage site can significantly increase in-person visits to museums. In this blog, we’ll explore how online museum tours are not just a digital novelty but a powerful tool for boosting in-person visits to your physical museum exhibitions.

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Bridging the Digital and Physical Worlds

Breaking Geographical Barriers

Virtual tours make museums accessible to a global audience, breaking down geographical barriers. Potential visitors can ‘walk’ through your exhibits from anywhere in the world. This exposure often ignites the desire to experience the museum in person, converting virtual visitors into physical ones.

Case Study: Highland Folk Museum

In this case study on the Highland Folk Museum in Scotland, we showed how virtual tours of the museum helped pique interest for visitors.

Highland Folk Museum wows the world witjh Fresh new twist on Virtual Museum Tours

“Regular visitors love being able to see their favourite buildings and collections up close, and are keen to return to the museum, and people who haven’t been before are telling us they can’t wait to come and visit in real life; it’s made them curious. ThingLink has been the perfect way to present our unique buildings to an online audience.”

Helen Pickles, Highland Folk Museum Project Officer

Use Your Museum Virtual Tour as a Teaser Experience

Think of a virtual exhibition or tour as a sort of “trailer” for your museum. It provides a tantalizing glimpse of your collections, compelling viewers to come and see the full story in person. The virtual tour can showcase highlights and unique artefacts, sparking curiosity and encouraging an in-person visit to see more.

Enhancing Outreach with Virtual Tours

Virtual gallery and museum tours are valuable educational and outreach tools. They can be used in classrooms, inspiring students and educators to organize field trips to your museum for a more hands-on experience. This educational aspect transforms the virtual experience into an invitation for an educational journey on-site.

Particularly for those who may never have stepped foot in an art museum or gallery before, allowing students to explore the site in virtual reality makes a real-life visit less daunting.

Case Study: Orton Geological Museum, Columbus

One aspect of inclusivity and accessibility which can often be overlooked is the fact that museums and galleries can be overwhelming, confusing or intimidating for some visitors. Feedback about this virtual tour of the Orton Geological Museum and Library at Ohio State University showed that most of the recent in-person visitors had explored the virtual tour first, suggesting that familiarity with the space encouraged a subsequent physical visit.

Explore the Virtual Tour below!

Using Technology to Enhance the Visitor Experience

Interactive Elements

Modern virtual tours and online exhibits are more than just panoramic images; they can include interactive multimedia elements such as clickable information points, 3d models, audio guides, quizzes and video clips. This interactive functionality enrich the virtual user experience, making it more engaging and memorable, which in turn fuels the desire for a real-world visit.

Social Media Integration

Virtual tours are shareable on social media, expanding your museum’s reach. Users can share their favorite parts of the tour with their network, effectively becoming ambassadors of your museum. This organic marketing can lead to increased interest and foot traffic.

Accessibility and Inclusivity

Virtual tours make your museum more accessible to individuals who might have disabilities or geographical/financial limitations that prevent them from visiting in person. By providing this inclusive experience, you build a relationship with a wider audience, who may be motivated to visit in person if their circumstances change.

Case Study: ROM

In our case study ROM’s Interactive and Responsive Virtual Museum Tours Solve Access Issues, we examined how the Royal Ontario Museum used a virtual tour to help fulfil their mandate of providing museum access to students across their entire province, all 415,000 square miles of it.

ROM ThingLink Virtual Museum Tours
ROM’s virtual museum tours solve access issues

Building Anticipation

Special Exhibits and Events

Use virtual tours to preview special artworks or exhibitions. This strategy creates anticipation, encouraging people to visit in person to be part of the exclusive experience.

Virtual tours: A powerful strategic tool

In conclusion, virtual museum tours are not just a supplement to the physical experience; they are a strategic tool for increasing in-person visits. By breaking down geographical barriers, offering teaser experiences, enhancing educational outreach, utilizing interactive technology, and building anticipation, virtual tours can significantly boost physical attendance at your museum. Embracing this digital innovation could be the key to unlocking a new era of museum engagement and visitor growth.

The easiest way to create your own virtual tours and exhibitions

Read through our selection of blogs and case studies below to see how easy it is to create your own interactive museum or gallery virtual tour.

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