Palazzo Madama: Open, Connected, Social Museum

Best Practice Session
carlotta margarone, Italy


Carlotta Margarone, Web Manager, Palazzo Madama Torino and Irene Rubino, Evaluation and mobile learning specialist, Tonic Minds s.r.l

Palazzo Madama ( is a historic building and UNESCO World Heritage Site located in the city center of Turin, Italy. Especially renowned for its baroque style, it also houses the Museo Civico d’Arte Antica, Turin’s municipal museum of ancient art. On a surface of over 4,000 sqm, an extensive collection of decorative and fine arts covering twenty centuries is displayed, starting from the Roman times to the present ages. Set up in 1861, the building was closed between 1988 and 2006 to ensure the refurbishment of the palace and the renewal of its outfitting.

Starting from the reopening, the museum director and the staff have been working on a new model of museum, shifting common paradigms: the museum as a place opened to the public, a “temple” but also a “forum”, where people can contemplate the beauty of the art, but at the same time find stories, emotions and a feeling of warm welcoming.

During the presentation we will describe and critically analyze how we have been working over the past 8 years on community building and audience development, underlying the importance of providing visitors with meaningful and accessible experiences, both online and onsite. Particularly, we will focus on the strategies adopted to engage new audiences and foster repeat visits: from the reconstruction of Italy’s first Senate chamber (2011) to the creation of a strong brand identity, to the development of an effective social media strategy. All these experiences contributed to the reinforcement of people’s trust into the institution and recently led to the successful completion of the first Italian crowdfunding project devoted to the arts: thanks to the contribution of 1600 citizens who donated more than 95.000 euros, in 2013 Palazzo Madama has enriched its heritage with a Meissen porcelain service, now displayed on the second floor.

Given the opportunities offered by mobile technologies in terms of personalization and interpretation, in 2013 Palazzo Madama has also enriched its offer with the provision of a mobile guide optimised for tablet. The mobile application was developed by engineering firm TonicMinds ( and was conceived as a tool aiming at facilitating visitors’ engagegement and meaning-making process. As to cater for different needs and agendas, it features not only a free exploration tour and a variety of thematic paths, but also two location-based mobile games: scanning the tags deployed in the museum environment, users can access multimedia content and explore the collections challenging themselves with mind-on riddles or delving into storytelling, dialoguing with virtual characters and following their own favourite story branch.

After one year of in-depth evaluation and analysis, in the second part of our presentation we will share our results, trying to giving an answer to the following questions: to what extent can location-based mobile games help museums be engaging places? How the use of mobile games is influencing visitors’ experiences in terms of fun and learning? Finally, we will conclude investigating the role of mobile games in positively affecting citizens’ perceptions of museums as friendly institutions caring for people’s well being.

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