Creating remarkable visitor experiences across the cultural sector

Tablet Kiosks: delivering digital interpretation and more.

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The Roger Brown model of Victorian Winchester is now settled in its permanent home at Winchester City Museum. At 5 meters in diameter the impressive scale model is based on the first Ordinance Survey map of the city from 1873, and took former town planner Roger Brown nine years to create.


As well as an introductory film, ATS produced interactive Tablet Kiosks installed around the display that allows visitors to explore the City, details of the model and discover more of the notable characters including Jane Austen. Writing and producing layered content that includes audio, film, archive images and a series of interactives provide a variety of interpretive tools for visitors of all ages.


Spencer Clark, Director, ATS Heritage said: “ATS Heritage is always looking for new ways to deliver digital interpretation as part of a wider museum or exhibition experience. The use of tablet technology allows us to create easy to use interfaces to provide information which can be updated and changed quite easily. The solution is rugged, can include an audio output (speakers or headphones) and is cheaper and more flexible than print materials to update.

Cross platform options.


Tablet Kiosks come in a range of flavours – Android, iOS or Windows. Beyond interpretive content, Tablet Kiosks and apps can provide feedback forms, surveys, sign up pages, donation pages, access to websites or image archives. Tablet Kiosks can also have a range of technology integrated, such as printers, scanners and cameras.

Tablet Kiosks can be table mounted, wall mounted or free standing and can easily be retro-fitted to existing furniture with minimal effort.

Install and run your own apps, or ask us about using one of our template designs to display your content. Call the team for more information on 02392 595000.



We’re hiring! Marketing Intern (paid)

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Marketing Intern

Clanfield, Hampshire, £18k pro rata (4-6 months)

ATS Heritage is a successful media production company working in the cultural sector. We’re looking for a brilliant Marketing Intern to help raise our profile across several marketing activities and campaigns.

This is a fantastic opportunity for a graduate who is looking to apply their knowledge and enthusiasm of digital marketing in a small business. This will be a hands-on role with plenty of responsibility which is why we’re looking for someone who is a fast learner, highly organised, resourceful, independent, creative and ambitious!

Your role is to support the Sales Director across a whole number of tasks:

  • Co-ordinate and manage e-mail marketing campaigns
  • Co-ordinate content production with internal and external partners (images/video/copy)
  • Manage contact lists (CRM)
  • Administration of website (CMS and WordPress) and co-ordinate updates
  • Co-manage social media channels
  • Plan, co-ordinate and attend marketing events
  • Attend sector events and exhibitions
  • Track and report performance of marketing campaigns
  • Perform competitor & market research

Other tasks may include:

  • Support sales lead generation
  • Responding to incoming sales enquiries
  • Be involved in the creation and delivery of sales documentation including proposals, presentations and product literature

Essential skills

  • Computer & mobile literate
  • Experienced with Microsoft Office
  • Excellent written skills
  • Excellent personal communication skills

Desirable experience and skills

  • Copy writing for proposals, advertisements, blogs, newsletters
  • Experience using a CRM
  • Experience using a CMS
  • Experience of using Social Media Channels and management tools
  • Understanding of PPC, SEO and e-mail marketing campaigns
  • Graphic design/art working experience
  • Photography/filming experience

Support, coaching and training will be provided, however we expect you to be a confident self-starter and keen to learn and develop your practical skills to become a brilliant marketer.

Initial term will be for 4-6 months, however following a successful review a permanent role may be offered.

Please email your CV and a covering letter to: with ‘Marketing Intern’ as the subject line.

Shortlisted candidates will be contacted the week of the 14th August to arrange a face to face interview.

No agencies please.

ATS strengthen offer to Cultural sites with new appointment

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ATS Heritage, leader in multimedia tours for Heritage and Cultural sites, is excited to announce Anne Fletcher will join the team as ‘Director of Interpretation & Partnerships’.

With this new appointment ATS will be able to strengthen its interpretative offer, through interpretive planning and expert support around developing visitor experiences.


Anne Fletcher appointed at the M&H show 2017

Anne Fletcher at the M&H show 2017

New ‘Rugby World Hall of Fame’ includes multi-language Audio Tour

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Translating Rugby for the world

The World Rugby Hall of Fame opened to the public on Friday 18 November at Rugby Art Gallery and Museum.

Located in Rugby town, where the story of the game began 200 years ago, this new visitor experience will take visitors on a journey through the history of the sport.

As part of the interpretation in the galleries visitors will encounter plenty of technology – screens and sounds will confront people from all angles, along with museum and archive objects and traditional text panels.

Rugby is an international sport and, as such, the museum is expecting to receive plenty of visitors from overseas. And this presented them with a challenge – how to try and present all that content in more than one language.

That’s when ATS was commissioned to solve this problem. We created an audio tour that translates the high-level text into a range of languages. Visitors can hear the exhibition text at the push of a button.

But there’s more to it than simply recording what we see on the walls. ATS scriptwriters have made the content suitable for listening – there are subtle differences in how visitors take in information when they are hearing it, compared to when they read it. We’ve then used the best voice over artists and production techniques to create a perfect accompaniment to the visitor experience.


Rugby Hall of Fame

Falkirk Wheel – Audio Commentary Production

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Falkirk Wheel tourism destinations

The Falkirk Wheel (half way between Edinburgh and Glasgow) is the world’s only rotating boat lift, connecting two canals, one 27 metres above the other. Visitors can take journey to the upper level of the wheel in a boat before going on a short trip and returning back down again. Scottish Canals commissioned ATS Heritage to write and produce an audio commentary to play inside the boat, describing why the Falkirk Wheel is there, how it works and the setting it in the local landscape. We also delivered training at the site to help boat skippers think again about the visitor experience and the role audio plays in that, alongside their own individual, personalised talks to customers.


Case study video: Successful balance of high & low tech interpretation

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Finding the balance of high tech and low tech interpretation is a common challenge across Museums and Heritage sites. It’s a highly creative process, exploring ideas and concepts that will engage audiences and deliver a memorable visitor experience. We introduced the Eltham Palace Project in another post, highlighting some of our key lessons learnt on approaches. At the M&H show this year we were invited to give a case study presentation along with our client English Heritage and our exhibition design partners Bright3D.

A year on and the project won the AHI Award for  and at the M&H Show Awards the project was Highly Commended, so here we share some of the results to date and an insight into the project, watch the case study presentation here.


AHI Award winner

AHI Award for Re-Presenting Eltham Palace won this category because:

“Good dwell time and visitor engagement through a good balance of interpretation without compromising rooms. The project exhibits good layered interpretation, good use of media to enhance key messaging, along with clear aims and themes. It is well executed to create new perspectives on an inflexible space, so getting away from a linear visitor flow.”





How to create atmosphere in an empty room

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Empty Room

Bringing the past to life when there are only limited visual cues is a challenge.

Think of a visit to a country house, a castle or a cathedral and you’ll perhaps think of the grand buildings themselves. And also their splendid interiors – lavish furnishings, opulent furniture and stunning decoration. We know that visitors enjoy visiting these places and that the often appreciate being helped around them with an audio or multimedia guide, drawing their attention to some of the features of the property.

But some spaces are a little more challenging to interpret for the visitor, especially if they have been stripped of all their fixtures and fittings. Whether it be fire, pillage or just being left to ruin, some rooms don’t have as many visual cues for us to work with when we’re creating content for visitors. It can be difficult to give visitors a sense of what a space was once like when there’s very little to see apart from a cold stone floor and an unframed window.

So here are our top tips for bringing life to an empty space, using handheld multimedia experiences.

Recreate the sound of a scene
Soundscapes are a great way to bring atmosphere to a room when we have some evidence – or at least a good hunch – about what a space was once used for. Creating a soundscape is a bit like making a collage. In the sound editing suite we blend historically authentic sound effects with music and snippets of voices to create a continuous background sound. This can be played from speakers in the room – either continuously or triggered by visitors when they enter – or via portable headphones. They can also form the backdrop for a conversation which you might want to layer over the top.
Soundscapes can work just as well in both small and large spaces – anything from a quiet moment of solitude or prayer to a large event such as a concert or a coronation.

Put on a party
If the space was once used for events, recreating the sound or visuals of a celebration such as a banquet or feast can be a great way to bring a room to life. At Eltham Palace in London we filmed a 1930s band for use on the handheld multimedia guide there, helping visitors to get into the party spirit and to step back in time.

Quote me
First-person quotations from real people are a good way to bring real life events to your audience when read aloud by character actors and voice over artists. If you can get hold of an accurate quotation they add another layer of authenticity to the visitor experience. A quotation might come from one person – perhaps from a letter, diary or speech – or could be a conversation between two characters. Overheard backroom chats between members of household staff can be fun to listen in on, but an argument is even better! Either way it’s important to let visitors know whether the words they are hearing authentic or if we’ve used a little creative licence.

Focus on what visitors can see
While it might not look like much, there is often some small detail that can act as a starting point for a commentary in empty room. Historic graffiti carved into wood or stone give us a direct link to the people of the past and are hooks that can be used as the starting points of great storytelling.

Even if there’s not much to look at, asking visitors to stand on the spot where history happened can encourage them to understand the importance of a place. Ask them to look at the view out of a window and paint a picture in their minds of what it looked like 100, 1000 or 10,000 years ago.

Augmented reality
It’s easier than ever to show people what a space once looked like on a handheld device. Ask your visitors to hold their phones or tablets upright and to move them around the room. They’ll be amazed as they see the original wall coverings, fixtures and fittings appear on the screen.

Keep it focused
One of the golden rules of audio guide writing is to not write about what the visitor cannot see. Where there’s not much to see, we have to use our creativity to help the visitor understand a space. Reviewing any curatorial research with an open-mind about what might end up being presented is a good starting point. But a word of warning – don’t let the creativity get out of hand. All the content we create needs to be related back to the property we are stood in and the visitor and learning outcomes that have been set for the project.

Play on the emptiness of a space
Sometimes a pared back commentary, delivered in the right way by a narrator, can be very effective in an empty room. Tell your visitors a spooky story accompanied by a creaking door and a hooting owl and they’ll feel the chill run right down their spine.


Top 5 tips for integrated digital interpretation

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Twitter -Physical-digital3

Increasingly heritage sites are commissioning digital offers for families and ATS has worked on a variety of successful projects aimed at this audience.   For example, this year we worked at Eltham Palace (London) alongside Edinburgh-based designers Bright 3D to come up with an updated interpretive offer for families.

There was an understanding that the family offer at Eltham was not as strong as it could be and that multimedia guides could help.   James Simpson, Senior 3D Designer at Bright explains more:

“All the components were there – medieval palace and Art Deco house – but we felt an additional layer, albeit a light touch one, would make a great impact especially combined with a redressing of the property at the same time…   By establishing the premise of a 1930s weekend house party.”

Immersive experiences rooted in fact appeal to most audiences, particularly the families and ’Experience Seekers’ that English Heritage were trying to attract to Eltham Palace.  So we worked with the design team and the property’s curators to recreate the atmosphere of the 1930s when the Courtauld family lived at Eltham.  English Heritage wanted every visitor to feel like a welcome guest coming to an event and Bright 3D had worked with them to identify a range of real life, fascinating Courtauld guests ranging from mountain climbers and arctic explorers to film producers and socialites.   We took these characters, created a party, and put them into the multimedia guide.

Visitors to Eltham are given an invitation when they arrive telling them which guest they are.   We created a film that told them all about their hosts, the party they were going to attend and that it was March 1937.    They then meet their guide (a different one each for adults and families) who via the multimedia tour shows them the house and gardens before cocktails and dinner.  It’s a tour full of people and activity, the build up to a party.  One of the greatest challenges was to make sure that visitors don’t meet their own character as they enter a room!

Multimedia content – for any audience – should not be created in isolation. It’s important while we’re being creative that we keep the users in mind and think about the fuller visitor experience. That’s why, when we’re commissioned to create content for a specific audience, we try to find out as much as possible about them and the context in which that product will sit. It’s all about creating joined up visitor experiences.   Bright 3D had planned this context.   As visitors explore the Palace they come across a series of discovery boxes linked to each character and family member, including a game of Mah Jongg. These boxes and artefacts were selected to suit the space and personality and include dressing up activities and handling objects, for example in Stephen Courtauld’s bedroom, his attaché case had his WWI medal, bow ties to dress up with, his collection of Roman coins as well as photos and letters from the archives.   Printed interpretation helps add another layer and link each space to the multimedia tour.

Eltham Palace Browse Menu

So how do we know that we got it right?   At Eltham the design team tested the interpretation with real audiences as part of the process which helped refine ideas and ensure that we created something that would be of interest to all visitors and encourage intergenerational experiences.

But don’t just take our word for it. Eltham Palace’s re-presentation won an Association for Heritage Interpretation Discover Heritage Award in 2015. When the AHI judges visited they said:

“Most visitors were using the media guide and a number of families and more elderly couples engaging together with the spaces and interpretation. (trying on clothes, discussing topics of interest). The media tour one of the best we had seen – broken into easy chapters and layered into interesting elements making use of a variety of media (music, film, reminiscence, key objects) appeals to a broader range of people.

Diversifying the interpretation offer has also improved the offer to existing core audiences, and provided more opportunity for the family engagement”

Eltham Palace has just been nominated for a Museum & Heritage Show award too, we’ll know if we’ve won on the 18th May.

So here’s our top 5 tips for creating multimedia experiences that appeal to your chosen audience:

1: Enjoyable not just educational –  all our multimedia is based in fact and research and curatorially led, but we focus on who are audience is and how we can best engage them with the heritage both emotionally and intellectually.

2: Memorable, unlike anything visitors can do at home – we don’t make documentaries, we make content that is unique to the heritage that we are commissioned to interpret.   We are looking for ways to bring it alive that visitors can’t experience anywhere else.

3: Layers of content are essential if visitor needs are to be met and interest maintained.   We like to work closely with designers and with our client to devise a scheme where high tech works with low tech to tell an integrated story.

4: Quiet is an important part of our storytelling.  We’re not afraid of a blank screen or a pause when another form of interpretation can take over.

5: Timing is the key to the success of our top 5 tips.   If we’re brought in at the right stage of a project as we were at Eltham, then we can help to create a fully integrated interpretation scheme.  Too often multimedia is just a bolt on.

Considering how a digital element could work with your interpretation? Give our friendly team a call on 02392 595000, or email us.

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Deaf Awareness Week – can you recognise a deaf visitor?

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Welcome to Deaf Awareness Week, a week of opportunity for you to to recognise, empathise and improve your visitor experience for people who are D/deaf!

The most difficult challenge around inclusion of deaf visitors is communication. I’m going to ask you to do one important thing this week, as an individual, or as a team, I want you to think about what your visitor journey is like for a person who is D/deaf. You will no doubt discover those ‘of course, I didn’t even think of that as a barrier’ moments, and if you do, please share them with me, I want to know what you learn this week and will help you wherever I can.

Improve customer service & visitor experience

All types of organisations (not just museums) often fall short when it comes to communicating with visitors who are deaf. Frustrations and misunderstandings can arise at various touch points and the whole visitor experience can be pretty awful for both sides.

Customer service can be improved greatly with a basic understanding about deafness and the barriers that may be preventing you from offering your visitors a great experience.

This week we’ll be offering you tips and advice to reduce those barriers, starting today with an introduction to the different types of deafness and how to recognise a deaf visitor.

Why be deaf aware?

  • Develop staff communication and customer service skills
  • Improve the reputation of your organisation for being positive about deaf visitors
  • Attracting and retaining more loyal visitors through great customer service
  • Avoid unintentional discrimination

Types of deafness

There are few types of deafness and with each type there are different preferred methods of communication to use, so it’s good to understand these from the outset.

It’s fair to say that some hearing people are afraid of what terminology should be used when talking about deaf people. Here is an explanation of each type.

  • D/deaf

D/deaf is a term used to cover all people with some type of deafness and includes those who are:

  • Hard of hearing people have a slight to moderate hearing loss and will probably wear one or two hearing aids. They have difficulty hearing speech clearly, but are generally able to join in everyday activities.
  • Partially deaf people have a more severe hearing loss which significantly affects everyday activities and communication. They may use both speech/lip-reading and sign language and probably wear hearing aids.
  • Profoundly deaf people have little or no useful hearing and while some may wear hearing aids these do little more than assist with environmental awareness and do not help much with the understanding of speech

This last group of profoundly deaf people can be further subdivided into people who are: ‘deafened’ ‘deaf’ and ‘Deaf’

  • ‘deafened’ people have lost most or all of their hearing after childhood. Speaking was their first communication method so they use speech and lip-reading, but some may use Sign-Supported English; others choose to use BSL (British Sign Language)
  • ‘deaf’ people, with a lower-case “d‟, are those born profoundly deaf, but choose to use speech and lip-reading and regard English as their first language.
  • Deaf people are those who use British Sign Language as their first or preferred language and are known as “Deaf‟ with a capital “D‟. They regard themselves as a linguistic and cultural minority and have a separate “Deaf Culture‟ and a thriving deaf Community.

“Deaf and Dumb” – Did someone just say that?! This is extremely offensive and should never be used. Thankfully it’s not used so often nowadays, although we have heard examples of some people still using it (which make all of us cringe!).

It’s important to understand that depending on the type of deafness, there are varying levels of spoken and written English being used – basically this is whether English is their first or second language. This is one major barrier when communicating – using English with a deaf person whose first language is actually BSL – this is an opportunity for misunderstandings to develop.

Deaf people might sound different

You might meet deaf visitors who have an unusual sound or pattern to their speech – they simply have never heard the word they are saying and so it may not sound like what you are used to hearing. Also, hearing people have the ability to gauge the volume of their speech, so some people who are deaf may have louder voices.

Consider why this is – when a hearing person learns English as a child the process is to listen and repeat, if you take away the hearing element the process suddenly becomes more difficult, so levels of English grammar and sounds of speech will vary with D/deaf people depending on what teaching and support they’ve had.

Methods of communication

Depending on the type of deafness and their first language (either English or non-verbal such as British Sign Language) will depend on the preferred method of communication by a person who is deaf. Methods include:

  • Oral – Lip reading
  • Manual – sign language, finger spelling, gesture, mime
  • Written – any text based communication such as, signage, email, fax, SMS, web chat, textphones or literature

Tips: How to recognise a deaf person

  • Person may tell you.
  • Person wears hearing aids (remember it/they may not be visible)
  • Person uses Sign Language.
  • Voice may sound different.
  • Does not respond when spoken to from behind.
  • Watches the speaker’s mouth as they rely on lip reading.
  • Ask you to repeat.
  • Language is different – simple or unusual English.
  • May have a hearing guide dog

There is not one solution for all

So there are methods of communicating that work best depending on not only the situation, whether it’s face to face or non face to face, but also depending on what type of deafness someone has. By recognising these staff can use the best method to engage with your D/deaf customers.

Next post we will look at face to face communication and give you tips and advice on skills including lip reading and sign language.

Have an event, or want to share your best practices – tweet us

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Twitter Onsite or BYOD

5 reasons why BYOD isn’t the silver bullet for digital cultural experiences.

Published by . Filed under Apps, Audio tour, Multimedia, Technology. Total of no comments in the discussion.

Twitter Onsite or BYOD


Is now the time to go all in on a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) offer?

Virtually every visitor has a mobile device in their pocket, so when cultural sites are considering an audio or multimedia guide we’re often asked whether dedicated on-site audio/multimedia guides are still relevant.

We’ve been working in this sector a long time, we provide on-site devices, but we also create apps too, so we thought we would share some of our thoughts on why on-site devices might still be the better option over the BYOD experience.

1: Add value to the visitor offer

Perceived value by visitors is paramount to an enjoyable visitor experience, many of our clients offer free audio/multimedia guides in their ticket price, with the majority of visitors having one, the audio/multimedia guide becomes a central part of the experience. If you ensure you have great content that tells your stories really well and engages your audiences in the overall experience, you will see more enjoyable visits and rising positive feedback.

2: Greater integrated on-site visitor experience

Do you want to publish your content to anyone at anytime, anywhere – with say a virtual tour or website? Or do you want to hold something back exclusively for the on-site visit and want them to only experience specific content in the context of a site visit? An on-site device is the perfect way of providing great content to visitors on location only.

3: The (tricky) experience of using an app on site.

We know that just because you have an app version of your audio/multimedia tour, doesn’t mean they will want to use their own device. Common barriers include:

  • low battery/memory
  • don’t have headphones with them
  • time poor and can’t be bothered going to the app store and waiting for a download
  • they don’t have data roaming
  • there is no access to high spec free Wi-Fi to download the app

These are all simple but effective barriers which visitors will consider before downloading a tour app.

4: Multimedia content is big! 

The best multimedia tours out there have really immersive and creative content (often audio, film and interactives) and can be in multiple language and access versions, which unless a venue has a high performance Wi-Fi, can make this difficult to stream effectively to mobile devices (how much do you hate the buffer icon?), or just makes a downloadable app huge (which takes up lots of memory).

5: Higher quality user experiences built for one device

One challenge with developing an app that utilises mobile device’s features (e.g. camera for image recognition/augmented reality, or bluetooth beacons), is ensuring that the app works across platforms (iOS, Android, Windows etc.) and multiple devices your visitors might be using (legacy devices too, not just the latest smartphones).

Depending on the project size, this could require extensive testing and development, which is costly and if you don’t get it right, severely impacts the user experience.  With on-site devices, you can design and perfect the experience to work on one single device, negating the ‘it doesn’t work on my phone’ complaints and subsequent poor visitor experience.


Virtually everyone has a mobile, but limited number of visitors are adopting the behaviour of using mobile app tours instead of onsite devices. The choice certainly comes down to what visitor experience you want to create – you may intentionally want and off-site virtual experience (in which case an app /website is a likely option). As you can see from our list, there are still compelling reasons for having onsite devices. Over the next generations of mobile devices, networks and Wi-Fi advancements, we may well see the balance change towards a BYOD, when rich content can be streamed effortlessly and batteries last weeks (like my old Nokia!) but right now there is a healthy demand for on-site devices as part of a great integrated visitor experience.


Have a project idea or thinking about devices or apps? Give our friendly team a call on 02392 595000, or email us.

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