Role: Concept, Experience Design, Story Development, Content Direction and Editing
Overheard is a site-specific audio narrative experience that allows users to eavesdrop on fictional characters and their stories through a location aware app at the Minneapolis Institute of Art. Similar to immersive theatre, it allows the museum visitors to explore stories in their own way, at their own pace as they journey through the galleries. It is a new way to move through the museum and experience the incredible works on view through different people's perspectives in order to explore the fascinating ways that people can connect with art.
Winner of the 3M Art and Technology Award
Overheard was featured in the New York Times
More info on the project
As visitors explore the galleries, the custom app recognizes their location, allowing them to "overhear" characters through their headphones as if they are eavesdropping on the conversations of virtual visitors that are the same room, talking about the art that is on the walls in front of the listener. For example, in one story, a visitor standing in a Greek sculpture gallery would overhear three women making jokes about a statue of an inebriated greek god riding a donkey. Another user walking through the modern design wing might hear a woman reminiscing about a kind of chair that her father threw away when she was a child, that is now on view at the museum.
While some of these conversations are short vignettes, there are several stories that can be followed through the museum in a longer story arc. Cues in the characters’ dialogue help guide the listeners along the longer story paths, as the characters continue their conversations from room to room. Unlike a traditional museum audio experience, the dialogues are representative of real conversations that would take place in the museum - Overheard is not meant to be a tour or guide of the museum, but rather a new kind of standalone story experience.
The stories of the fictional characters explore the different intentions and motivations museum visitors may have for visiting the museum, from inspiration, to education, and even just socializing. The tone of each character story varies, in relation to their intentions for being at the museum, and the dialogue explores the character’s relations to one another and the art on view. These characters and stories are based on extensive on-site research and interviews with staff members and visitors to ensure that the stories feel authentic to the museum in which they take place. Taking from the research, scripts were written, and the characters were brought to life by professional voice actors.
In its current iteration, visitors using the Overheard app can listen in on a first date, go on a ghost hunt with children, or hear a couple of old friends catch up, however over time new content can be pushed to the app and more stories can be added to the experience, expanding to new exhibitions or locations.
At the time of launch of Overheard at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, there are 5 different short narrative stories that can be followed, totaling approximately 90 minutes of possible audio story content.
Since the app is no longer live, I’ve archived the audio stories here:
We wanted listeners to put their phone away and let the stories blend seamlessly into their museum visit.
We had to design an interface that could give guidance when needed, and let users track their progress through a story, but not demand their attention.