Recently, Crystal Bridges received the Gold MUSE award for Audio Tours and Podcasts from the American Alliance of Museums’ Media & Technology committee for our audio/music tour of the temporary exhibition This Land: Picturing a Changing America in the 1930s and 1940s. This is the highest award that a museum can receive for an audio tour. MUSE awards honor outstanding achievement for digital media that enhances the experience and engages audiences. They celebrate scholarship, community, innovation, creativity, education, and inclusiveness. Judges consider each project’s accessibility in terms of ADA, the overall production quality, the inventiveness, and the impact that the project makes to the museum field.
The goal of Crystal Bridges’ winning audio tour was to illuminate our guests’ exploration of the exhibition in a unique way. Thus we partnered with the Fayetteville Roots Festival to curate a collection of music to accompany This Land. Each of the stops on this musical tour featured a song by 2013 Fayetteville Roots Festival performers that captured the essence of a particular image in the exhibition. Crystal Bridges Associate Curator Manuela Well-Off-Man and Bryan Hembree, Director of the Fayetteville Roots Festival, provided background and commentary for each tour stop.
The museum enjoys wonderful relationships with local organizations that often allow for unique partnership opportunities, and music is an important aspect of the culture in our local community. Thus when Senior Museum Educator Sara Segerlin had the idea to partnering with the Fayetteville Roots Festival for this music audio tour it seemed like the perfect fit.
The Crystal Bridges team believed that regionalist music would strongly interrelate with the artwork, either through the lyrics, the mood and rhythm of the song connecting with the painting’s mood and visual rhythms, or through instrumentation. Since the exhibition This Land: Picturing a Changing America in the1930s and 1940s focuses on artists’ responses to major natural events and the changing rural and urban landscapes prior to World War II, it was easy to find contemporary folk music that reflects the same sentiments amongst the musicians performing at the 2013 Fayetteville Roots Festival.
Personally, of the audio tours I’ve had the privilege of producing, this was one of my favorites. So it was wonderful to receive praise such as this from the MUSE judges: “We loved the multi-sensory approach of this tour, and appreciated the different entry point to the exhibition theme for different types of visitors. This is a neat idea—Crystal Bridges went the extra mile to connect with their local community through this tour.”
I believe music-based audio tours have the potential to be a growing practice in the museum field. Music can allow a viewer to engage an exhibit in a new way as well as helping him or her better understand a time, place, event, or emotion. How can you not love great art and great music?
I’m also happy to announce that in honor of our award, we will be re-publishing the tour in our CB Museum app from now through July 10, 2014. The app is available on Apple and Android platforms. If you select “Museum Tours” and scroll through the list, you will find The Music Experience of This Land available for download. Since the exhibition is no longer on view in our galleries, wall labels are included and images of the artwork displayed while the audio plays.