Posted by juncanoo on | March 15, 2010 | No Comments
The story behind Juncanoo.
In the 2 years before coming to graduate school at Upenn, I traveled the world, spending time on every continent except Antartica, absorbing culture and learning as much about different places as I could. I traveled with a blackberry which had data connectivity in most places, that enabled me to keep track of news, search for things everywhere that I was (thanks to Google) and to keep in touch with friends and family by email.
When I visited museums and art galleries on the road, I was often unable to access guides to supplement the art or culture I was observing/experiencing. There were 2 barriers; first, a lack of English language guides, and second, for many smaller institutions, a lack of budget to afford a traditional audioguide.
How we got started.
I founded Juncanoo in March ’09, with two of my brothers who are both engineers, to help solve these problems. The journey has been great and has plunged us deeper into the art community than we ever imagined. As a result, we’re facing some fascinating questions at the same time as I suspect the global arts and culture community is; how technology can be used to
- help the arts and culture community sustain itself,
- build communities with patrons around arts and culture,
- expand programming beyond institutional walls,
- and communicate and connect directly with patrons,
Juncanoo has evolved into a deeper exploration of these topics which seeks to develop an integrated answer to these questions that is easy and a pleasure to use, that delivers value to both the institutions and the communities around them, and is inexpensive enough that everyone from temporary standalone installations to large metropolitan zoos can access the same technology.
We spent over a year speaking to people on the East Coast and around the world, from artists to museums, galleries to parks, to understand how institutions viewed these problems, and how we could go about solving them. In the process, we’ve built some enduring partnerships with very progressive institutions willing to enter this great unknown with us, and are on the precipice of some exciting opportunities that should deepen the affinities of patrons with institutions, create a dynamic virtual dialogue around arts and culture, and develop into new revenue streams that eventually help sustain the cultural community, and expand programming.
Where we are today.
We’ve developed the Exhibit Platform, an app currently on the iPhone (download here or search for “exhibit” in the AppStore) which will be available for Blackberry devices, and Google Android devices by the summer. Exhibit allows institutions of all kinds (museums, galleries, parks, zoos, botanical gardens and arboreta, aquariums, cities, outdoor installations and heritage sites) to publish cellphone, smartphone and virtual guides. Exhibit was in response to our first set of conversations with institutions last summer (chronicled at here) and is currently being used by 3 museums in the Philadelphia area: the ICA, the Mutter Museum, and the Penn Museum of Archeology and Anthropology. Exhibit currently addresses:
- Expense: Traditional, hardware based, audioguide solutions required a huge upfront expense and are slowly giving way to the Cellphone tour model. Exhibit, on the other hand, is all software based, requires only the time investment on the part of the institution to get started, and integrates cellphone guides, smartphone guides, and mobile and desktop virtual guides into one place. This enables institutions to build, manage, and publish their content in one place, to worry less about the upfront and ongoing maintenance expenses, and to cover everyone possible; cellphone guides for visitors without smartphones, smartphone guides for those with the popular OS platforms, mobile browser guides for other smartphone owners, and desktop browser guides for those sitting at home or in the office.
- Social Networking: Institutions currently have no way of building word of mouth among users at the time when they are most interested – while in situ. Exhibit solves this by enabling visitors to share their experiences on social networks (now mostly facebook and twitter, but we’ll be expanding this).
- Mailing List: Exhibit enables end users to subscribe to institutional e-mailing lists, which will boost the benefits of email marketing efforts.
- Tracking: Exhibit tracks all end user activity. This data helps institutions analyze how users are responding to programming in a very quantitative way.
Finally, we’re building a bunch of functionality that we’ll update as we make available; these relate to tighter social networking integration, and commercial opportunities for institutions such as gift store sales, e-ticketing, sponsored pages, advertisements and donations. The thrust here, is to develop a system that sustains itself and is even revenue positive for participating institutions. Some examples of this will be ready by mid-April, and I’ll post here for your feedback when it is.
Ultimately, the institution and end user community will decide what is best, and for this reason, we’d love for all of you reading this to try out Exhibit; download it from the AppStore if you have an iPhone (download here or search for “exhibit” in the AppStore), or sample the virtual online guides for the ICA, the Penn Museum, and the Mutter Museum). We’d love any and all feedback – we’re looking for more institutions to try out Exhibit and help improve and refine it. You can reach me at Ayo(at)juncanoo.com with feedback.
Thanks for reading – my next post will discuss the challenges we’re facing – we’d love to hear all your thoughts!