Few things are more daunting to a small museum director than walking through the halls of a major museum and seeing all the nifty gadgets they use. Kiosks galore! I found myself drooling with envy and wondering, “Is it possible to do something similar on a shoe-string budget?”

The answer is yes!

Tablet-based kiosks should never distract from the objects in the exhibit, but should allow visitors to explore their interests.

We first called the techies and asked them for a basic IT solution to increase audience participation. With their quote of $38,000, though, the project was dead, but not the dream.

I spent months pondering the big questions:

  • How can I increase audience participation?
  • How can I enhance communication and interactive dialog?
  • Why the heck does it cost so much????

Then it hit me. We’re approaching the issue backwards. It’s not about the technology; it’s about the knowledge!

Our team began developing kiosks for under $600 to revolutionize our visitor’s museum experience. With each we use KIOSK, an acronym beginning and ending with the word “knowledge.”

  • KNOWLEDGE of your audience. Will a kiosk enhance audience experience or detract from it? Depending on the age and demographics of your audience, a kiosk can be either a tremendous asset or a complete waste of time. Our older visitors usually have little interest in them. We have very active educational programming that regularly brings large groups of students through the museum. These kiosks tend to break up large group tours and provide small group interactive modules for students.
  • INSTALLATION in exhibitions. We wanted the kiosks to add to – not detract from – the exhibition. By focusing on the artifacts, rather than on the technology, we reduced the cost considerably.
  • OPERATION of the kiosk. If you can’t operate the kiosk, then you’ve wasted your time. We keep the page designs simple. No page has more than four choices on it. Most only have two: back and next.
  • SUSTAINABILITY of the piece. If you can’t give it to a three-year-old, don’t use it in a museum. There are some low-cost options to purchasing tablets. We buy good tablets with a minimum of memory and none of the bells and whistles.
  • KNOWLEDGE communicated to your audience. The point of adding a kiosk is to communicate the content of the exhibition more effectively. It’s easy to get sidetracked by trying to get the graphics perfect and adding all kinds of “frou-frou” animation. By adding 15 kiosks to our floor plan, we can change the text easily, instantly and cheaply.

Courtesy Gen. Tommy Franks Museum

Once we took this approach, we realized how much money the kiosks saved us. We didn’t have to print, mount and install new information boards, and the boards didn’t need as much content.

Our most expensive kiosk installation cost $820. Our cheapest (with a donated tablet) was $225. The average cost of installing each kiosk was $589.

In our next post, we’ll show you how to build a kiosk from a tablet.

Warren Martin, Executive Director of the General Tommy Franks Leadership Institute and Museum, is the primary presenter of all Inspired Leadership Experiences. Warren has been leading leadership workshops, presenting keynote presentations and consulting with Fortune 500 corporations for 16 years. A Philosophy graduate from Texas Tech and author of 5 books, Warren is known for his unique teaching style. He has worked in 28 countries around the world (mostly in the Middle East and Latin America). He has also worked with teachers, organizations, and youth ministers to develop curriculum and need specific training. Warren has been listed among the top 400 speakers in America. His passion is to invest in the lives of others through servant leadership to assist them in reaching their full potential.