GLAMi nomination: Through the Eyes of Love

nominated by: Melissa Mair, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, USA
institution: The Nelson-Atkins Musuem of Art
category: Exhibition Media or Experience

How do you get visitors to not just learn, but care? To be so touched that they feel deeply invested in your collection? This was a question we decided to explore with a new form of audio experience, Through the Eyes of Love.

Through the Eyes of Love is a long-form 30 minute audio journey created for the opening of the newly reinstalled Bloch Galleries at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Created in collaboration with Antenna International, the audio operates exactly like a walking podcast through two floors of the museum. The experience is a personal, intimate, subjective meditation on the way falling in love rocks your world. A radical departure from the traditional, didactic audio tour, it is unlike anything else the museum has ever produced.

The audio journey leverages wifi triangulation and location-aware technology to guide visitors and deliver the story at exactly their own pace. Audio narratives and directions are woven into the museum’s spaces, unfolding intuitively and responsively to the visitor’s movements. As the narrator takes visitors through the galleries, conversations with her friends and acquaintances weave in and out, musing on variations of love, and how they see it reflected in these artworks. The walk explores all kinds of love—the early days of love, love of a place or thing you do, the quiet beauty of ordinary moments, the mess of all-consuming love, and the heartbreaking agony of loss.

Through the Eyes of Love puts the story first, and focuses on personal experiences instead of art historical content and expert commentary. While content is skillfully weaved into the story, it is not the driver. The walk focuses on intimate and vulnerable experiences shared by a real person who introduces herself by name. She has a distinct point of view and expresses her opinions along the way, asking probing questions of others about their own experiences of love. It is so vulnerable, that a curator, when discussing her love for one of the works of art, is moved to tears. This is audible in the audio track, and many listeners, upon hearing this story, cannot help but be moved themselves in response.

We discovered that changing the narrator’s voice and tone of the audio changes everything. Through the Eyes of Love is fresh, relatable, and spontaneous, offering a new form of exploration at our museum. Visitors encounter surprises right alongside the narrator. The storytelling is deep and rich, and listeners gain more than contextual facts. Instead, the audio fosters a deep emotional connection to the artworks in our collection.

The end result is a unique “visitor flow” state. The walk was designed as an innovative experience for visitors that would not just transform their understanding of the museum’s collection, but create an investment in the artworks. The goal was truly to meet visitors where they are, and we feel we have accomplished this as we are seeing visitors have strong emotional responses—from laughter to tears.

Note: For this submission, I’ve included the first stop (audio + image of the artwork) as our submitted video in addition to the full script and two additional videos of other stops for your review. As mentioned, the narrator guides the visitors among the works of art. This means in some of the audio you will hear snippets of these directions and other directional language. You’ll also notice that the script includes ‘walking triggers’ and ‘stop triggers.’ Stop triggers indicate audio given once a visitor is in front of a work of art, while walking triggers are directions and other information given to visitors as they walk between the works.