Scheduling tours can be a time consuming endeavor that many of us with small museum education staff have little time to dedicate.  So when this blog topic came up in discussion, I volunteered to do some investigating- and to hopefully find a more time-efficient and stream-lined process for tracking tour information.

The tour scheduling procedure training I went through in the early 2000s was an outdated, grueling, detailed process of filling out paperwork, at least 3 copies and all by hand.  Not only was I taught to fill out a separate piece of paper for the Education files, I also had to create duplicates for the front desk staff and facility manager.

If this sounds all too familiar, let me be the first to tell you there are simple, easier ways to implement scheduling procedures.  For those of you who, like beginning swimmers, want a mild, gradual wade into the waters of tour scheduling, a tour schedule/excel file can be a relatively cheap and easy foray into the digital tour scheduling process.  This is a simple model of the Arizona Historical Society’s first step into digital tour scheduling.

For those a little more adventurous, who are ready to jump off the high dive into the deep end, there are technologically advanced software programs out there.  The Portland Art Museum is a leader in using leading tour scheduling software.  A company they worked with custom built a tour scheduling program that surpasses what many museum educators even thought possible.  Another company offering this software is EMS (Event Management System).  Software programs such as these, do not come cheap, averaging around $10,000-$15,000.  For example, the program can:

  • Schedule tours
  • Schedule on and off site outreach programs
  • Schedule volunteers for tours and shifts
  • Generate email confirmations
  • Provide a database for teacher e-lists
  • Use e-commerce for online payment
  • Control multiple users with customizable access

Tours are one of  museums’ first opportunities to connect with school aged children.  It is important to engage teachers and students at our museums through positive experiences, starting before they even arrive.  Once an effective process is implemented, whether it’s a slow wade or a high dive, scheduling tours & guides, requests from schools, pre-visit confirmation and post-visit follow up communication are more easily managed.  Now technology can help districts and home schools register and pay online before visiting.  Through a well organized and well managed tour program, you can make a much bigger splash in your community.