Augmented Reality for Museums 101

With all of the hype surrounding it, it’s easy to see Augmented Reality as a massive (and expensive), cure-all experience. An experience that you only have one shot to get right, that will drain your resources, and that you’ll be stuck with for years.


None of that is true. 

Your visitors might think of augmented reality as magic, but you should think of it as a tool. A tool that comes in many forms, can be used in lots of ways by any department, can be easily updated and rotated, and doesn’t have to break your budget. In fact, it’s not much different than many of the marketing, educational, or promotional tools you already use. It’s just the next level of experiencing, sharing, and learning for your audience–and it doesn’t have to be intimidating. In fact, think of AR as a technological Swiss Army knife for engagement, marketing, education, and promotion. It isn’t just for gaming or for idle entertainment. Augmented Reality is a great option when it comes to:

  • Sharing: Bottomline, AR is really cool. In the age of social sharing and remote engagement, AR is the perfect resource to tap into visitors’ love of new and exciting experiences whether onsite or from home. Plus, paired with unique hashtags, their enthusiastic sharing of your AR on social media offers an effortless avenue for B2C marketing.
  • Rotating Content: Unlike exhibition material built into kiosks, projectors, or other physical media, augmented reality can easily move with their trigger items to be enjoyed after an exhibition has ended.
  • Multi-Tasking: AR can be used to accomplish goals across departments for promotion, education, events, fundraising, and more. From business cards and mugs, to classroom printables and on-site exhibitions, AR applications for your entire organization are limitless.
  • Onsite and Offsite Reach: AR can be used by onsite and offsite visitors meaning you can reach them at your institution, while they are at home, or even in the classroom.


Augmented reality doesn’t mean all of your other tools need to go away. It’s just another layer to help make visitor experience memorable, and modern and make visitor engagement accessible in ways it hasn’t been before.

Campaigns, Promotions, & Sales

If there’s one thing you can always count on augmented reality to do, it’s catch attention. So it’s a great tool to use as part of marketing campaigns, event promotions, and sales.

That doesn’t mean your entire campaign or all of your promotional materials need to be augmented reality-based, instead, use augmented reality as a way to bring attention, encourage attendance, or offer try-before-you-buy experiences alongside all of your other methods. People are fascinated by augmented reality, so it won’t take much to draw their attention. It’s the newest (and coolest) way to get your message across and entice people to take action.
Think of it more as a hook rather than an end-all-be-all.

  • Exhibition Announcements – Have a special exhibition coming up? Send out postcard triggers via email or direct mail to spread the word. AR can trigger overlays, video, audio, previews, and more.
  • Special Events – Use AR mini-exhibitions to create Fundraiser buzz. Guru partners have made portraits speak to visitors via augmented reality during evening events. Add some music and cocktails and it’s an experience guests won’t soon forget!

Merchandise & Donations

Never underestimate the power of augmented reality as a call-to-action.

With merchandise sales and donation, AR can come in many forms. Anything from mugs, calendars, posters, and more can trigger an amazing AR souvenir to take home and share. Stickers, business cards, buttons, t-shirts — you name it — can be used to create awareness, build empathy and encourage donation right on the spot.

  • Real-time donation: AR allows for donation opportunities tied into content. Tappable links embedded in an AR experience can take visitors straight to a donation page. This Giraffe sticker was used to encourage donations for a special event. An augmented reality heart spins and turns into a basketball to reflect the size of a Giraffe heart. It then asks the visitor, “how big is yours?” before leading to a donation page.
  • Double-the-fun merchandising: Mugs, t-shirts, posters, they can all be paired with an augmented reality experience. This not only gives visitors a bonus when they buy, but a reason to share their purchase (and visit) with others.
  • Sneak peek fundraising: Augmented reality offers a unique opportunity to share with donors upcoming expansions or collection additions. Viewing what something will look like in AR helps donors visualize where their money is going in a fun and surprising way.

Visitor Experience, Education, Engagement

Learning Reinforcement: Augmented reality should never be without some sort of takeaway for your visitors. Using AR as a tool for enhancing or enforcing themes, information, or ideas is a great way to make learning memorable.

  • For instance, the Dali Museum reinforced the artist’s themes in each masterwork via AR animation before shifting into an interactive tap-and-learn experience.
  • Another Guru-powered museum partner uses augmented reality to demonstrate Monet’s obsession with light and its influence on the same scene. Augmented reality allows the viewer to see the painting change as the time of day changes.

Kid Tours: Children under ten can be tough to connect with when it comes to certain exhibitions or topics. A great way to engage children and their families is through dedicated augmented reality tours. Children locate trigger items and listen to an animated mascot or character give information about what they’ve found.

  • On board Battleship IOWA, children find numbered images of Vicky the dog located throughout the ship. Using a mobile device, children watch as Vicky the dog appears on their screens and teaches them about the ship.


Member swag: Want to engage members and inspire renewals? Augmented reality is a great solution and offers the opportunity to share multiple experiences with only one trigger. A single membership gift, like a poster, t-shirt, calendar, or magnet, can be viewed over and over again to unlock new content. Each month, a new experience can be linked to the same item.

Check back soon for more Guru 101


The first step in bringing your institution to the next level!

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