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Canned Audio Tours Replacing Rangers


    Technology is a wonderful thing. I have an MP3 player I listen to while skate skiing and working out on the elliptical. A cell phone lets me stay in touch with editors and sources while I'm away from the office. I love watching the Yankees win on a high-definition television.
     But is technology really the best solution in every setting? Do we want to replace all tour guides with audio guides? If so, who answers the questions that inevitably come up during a tour?
    Check out this story that ran over the weekend. And pay particular attention to the final paragraph.


In Kansas City, we just had a private exhibition of the Dead Sea Scrolls that made use of "audio wands" to provide commentary on the various parts of the exhibit. These wands were really like big cell phones, so you're wandering around in a room of 50 or so other people who all have this thing up to their ear. It looks like something out of a Kurt Vonnegut story. Anyway, the audio commentary did feature some good information from experts in the field (professors, etc.), but it was not interactive at all, and it was difficult to pay attention to what was being said when you're bumping into all these other people who are walking around aimlessly. My kids soon stopped listening to theirs, and I eventually gave up as well. It cost $20 a ticket, and it was one of the most disappointing museum experiences I've ever had. Later that week we went to see Harry Truman's home in Independence, MO, and were given a tour in a small group (8 people) by a National Park Ranger, and it was just great. These audio wands certainly are more cost effective, but they can't replace a live guide.

I agree Jim! There's nothing more rewarding then being ushered by a well versed National Park Ranger on various subjects...either it be natural, historical or's feels more personal and less intrusive with all that (plug in the ears) yakked talk.

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