An Ann Arbor-based company called Museum Edutainment is aiming to make museums and historical sites come to life with a new app called BARDEUM.
The app can be downloaded to an Android or iOS device, allowing the user access to fun, narrative-based audiovisual stories that deepen the experience of exploring a museum or historical site. Those stories may either feature fictional characters based on real historical events, or provide nonfictional context to an exhibit or site.
Amanda Mercer went to school to be a lawyer, but after going through a series of medical challenges that included fighting breast cancer and having a craniotomy to treat an aneurysm, she decided to change her life and do a lot more traveling.
She came up with the idea behind BARDEUM after visiting the Roman Forum, which she says seemed like "just a field of rubble" despite trying to listen to an audio guide to the site. She wondered if she could provide "a wonderful education around sites like this, but in a fun, entertaining way."
The app is free to download, but users pay for content that includes "Step Inside the Story," an experience that allows users to become part of the events that happened at a historical site, or "Go Beyond the Frame," designed for deepening the experience at art museums.
A third offering, the "In the Queue Series," consists of free 15- to 20-minute informative audio articles for visitors to enjoy while they wait in line.
Mercer wrote her first story for the Detroit Institute of Arts, and a second for the Roman Forum. Each time she launches a new "experience," she intends for it to be free for the first 30 days.
Mercer is currently the company's only employee, but she contracts with app developers, a voice actor who records the stories, and graphic designers. She hopes to expand those collaborations by partnering with authors of historical fiction to write new stories for the app.
"The goal is to have these authors create experiences about places they've already researched and written books about," Mercer says.
"In the end, my goal is to make the experience at museums and historical sites more valuable and satisfying," she says. "Particularly with museums, it can seem stuffy or elitist at times, and I don't want them to be that. They should welcome all sorts of people and be entertaining."
BARDEUM is available at the App Store and through Google Play.
Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township and the interim project manager of On the Ground Ypsilanti. She has served as innovation and jobs/development news writer for Concentrate since early 2017 and is an occasional contributor to Driven. You may reach her at email@example.com.
Images courtesy of BARDEUM.