Author First name, Last name, Institution

Kara McKeown, Zayed University
Sabrina DeTurk, Zayed University

Document Type

Book Chapter

Source of Publication

Appropriate Museology, Appropriate Language: Essays on Translation and Communication in the Museum

Publication Date



For the past several decades, audio guides, frequently referred to as handheld guides, have become expected aids to the museum visitor’s enjoyment and understanding of the museum experience. At one time such devices were available only in major institutions, but now even smaller, less visited museums and historic sites regularly offer a handheld audio experience for their visitors. The approach to the development of audio guides and their content has altered substantially as our understanding of the museum visitor’s experience has changed. Advances in technology have enabled a range of technical possibilities that may enhance the visitor’s experience by, for example, allowing the visitor to customize their tour, providing multiple versions of a tour on one device, and linking tour content to interactive features via a visitor’s mobile phone. The potential for an audio guide to be much more than a “talking label” is infinite, and mobile phone technologies and apps provide a unique opportunity for museums to engage new audiences. Often these guides can be downloaded and reviewed even before the visitor physically encounters the museum.

Although some museums in the United Arab Emirates employ audio guides as part of their visitor engagement strategy, many have yet to fully exploit this opportunity. Moreover, UAE museums in general have yet to develop the kind of interactive technologies that can be integrated with visitors’ own handheld digital devices, such as smartphones. These technologies can prepare the visitor for their museum experience, enhance that experience while at the museum, and encourage ongoing exploration of the objects and themes encountered after the visit is completed. This essay provides a brief overview of trends in the use of handheld audio and digital technology in museums internationally, surveys the current state of such technology in major UAE museums and historical sites, and offers some thoughts on how such technology might be further developed and deployed by these and other institutions in the future.


Hochschule für Technik und Wirtschaft Berlin

First Page


Last Page



Arts and Humanities

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Indexed in Scopus


Open Access


Open Access Type

Green: A manuscript of this publication is openly available in a repository