FORT LEE, Va. (May 14, 2020) -- Through creative use of its website and social media, the Army Women’s Museum here has gained a lot of ground in staying relevant and connecting with potential visitors.
The latest plateau in that line of strategic thinking is the activation of a virtual tour, providing access to the museum and its content from anywhere and anytime, even amidst a pandemic.
“We’ve been very aggressive with our Facebook and Instagram posts and the website to reach people,” said Dr. Françoise Bonnell, AWM director. “It became increasingly evident to me, however, that if you really want people to learn the history and reach the fullest audience possible, we needed to have a way for someone to come into the museum from wherever they are in the world and experience it and learn.”
The AWM virtual tour was activated roughly 10 days ago. It can be accessed via a link prominently displayed on the facility’s homepage, next to the introduction video and just above its hours of operation. It features 360-degree views of museum exhibits and outdoor features around the building. Viewers can click information buttons for historical facts and direction arrows leading to adjacent exhibits.
“The primary mission of the museum, besides collecting and preserving the materiel culture pertaining to Army women, is to educate,” Bonnell said. “So, not only does the virtual tour become something that now can be reached by the general public but also by the hundreds of thousands of Soldiers around the world, whose history is in the museum and to whom this information is very important.”
This is not the first time the AWM has featured a virtual tour. An earlier version was rolled out eight years ago but became obsolete due to a multi-million-dollar facility makeover in November 2018.
The new virtual tour idea gained strength during the grand re-opening that was attended by hundreds of people. Bonnell said it became strongly apparent a new product was needed.
“There were so many people we had heard from who said, ‘I wish I could’ve been there,” or ‘I wish I could make it to the museum … maybe one day in my lifetime I will.’ I thought to myself, there’s a new window of opportunity (here) because the museum has been completely redone,” Bonnell recalled.
“All of its content was selected by the staff. We prepared and labored and worked. As a result, we had the institutional knowledge and the know-how to create a virtual tour – you actually have to produce content, not just images. We had to figure out a way to select, which is difficult, what we thought would be the most important (and engaging) for our virtual audience in terms of the content.”
The virtual tour project took the staff roughly eight months to complete, and Bonnell said she is happy with the result.
“It’s wonderful!” she exclaimed. “We sent it out to some people (prior to going live) so they could see it, and we tapped into some of our potential audiences to get feedback. They all love it.”
The Army Women's Museum, according to its website, is the only one of its kind in the world. It honors women's contributions to the Army from the Revolutionary War to the present, providing stories with interactive exhibits and videos throughout the gallery, as well as film presentations in its theater. The museum also has an extensive research and learning center and a memorial garden.