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Google Indoor Maps – would it be useful for museums?

After talking a bit about map/floor plans for the museum, suddenly this came about. Is it a premonition? or do I work for Google? (No, I wish though)

Before you get too excited, like everything that Google does it always starts in US, so at the moment it is not yet available for other parts of the world. Would it ever be?  Google blog said this:

And this is just the start–we’ll continually add new indoor maps to public buildings across the world.

So, hopefully soon.

I think about all the museums I have been in, quite a few are housed in old buildings which has been modified or even was design to have different rooms, passages etc, almost like a labyrinth. I have heard staff would comment “This place is like rabbit warren, it is confusing so I better walk you through”. I have heard similar comments about going to IKEA “You are always lost in an IKEA, they make you go through everything just to find the pillow” and then another would say “ooh, but there is always a secret way in the middle where you can cut through”. So I think if IKEA is using it, museums could definitely make a use of it.

After all it adds having this floor plan will help with

  1. Increasing accessibility
  2. Perhaps cutting back the amount of printed maps = more considerate to the environment

I can see however, that it might scare some people off as it did with Google maps about privacy and security.  Also there are museums that are located in secluded areas or has underground galleries, so I wonder whether the app would work in these places. What do you think about this? What other use would this map have? Perhaps when planning an exhibition/events?

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Museum Maps or Floorplans

A Map Cover

The maps or some say floor-plans that museums produce of their building varies in size, depth and design.  Alice was planning her visit to V&A and downloaded a map of the V&A, she then ponders and asked these questions:

  1. Are these effective?
  2. Has anyone evaluate the use of their map?
  3. How important are they?
  4. Why printed? can’t they not be on a wall?
  5. Does it confused them more than it helped them to navigate themselves?
  6. Can it be functional but still looks nice?
  7. Does visitor actually use it? or do they tend to take it (specially when it is free) and not pay attention to it and wander?
  8. Should museum charge for it?
  9. Big museums with a labyrinth like space needs a map, but does a small museum necessarily need it?
  10. How many museum use apps for their maps?

And I could only say:

  1. I don’t know, we need to find out
  2. I don’t know any
  3. They are quite important because we want it to be easier for people to: a. navigate themselves, b. access the collection c.not get frustrated to try find something
  4. I think it would be better if you have both, printed and on a sign on a wall. But the nature of museums changes, specially those that have special exhibition, which means you need to change the sign on the wall. Naturally to change signage is more expensive and take more time to accomplish then to updating a printed map. However with the age of Apps, the changes could be made even faster.
  5. Again I don’t know, I did have to develop a few museum maps that received visitors feedback that it is not very useful, but it’s not really substantial prove.
  6. I think definitely! but being functional is still its main priority, with the objective of people are self-sufficiently navigating themselves around the museums
  7. A research would be great to answer all your questions Alice. My hypothesis is that people are different depending who they are, some would take the map and not pay attention to it and get lost, some just like to wander and explore without a map, etc
  8. I would say that if the museum itself is free to entry, yes they could charge for it. But if visitors are paying to enter I think then the museum should include the production of the map in the entrance free and not charge people extra for it.
  9. It would be great for even the smallest museum to have maps, because of the reasons in no.3, but if it is too expensive to produce and you do not want to charge for them, then why not create one online and tell visitor to download before their visit.
  10. Lets find out…

Do you ever think about your museum Map or Floor plan? or is this not important for you? Have you asked your visitor?