Before our visit to Tower Bridge I downloaded the Family Trail app to give the girls an idea of what was in store. The Tower Bridge app is great for kids, with lots of simple games and fun facts about the exhibition they are about to see. It’s a great learning tool for them, and it really helped our two little girls to enjoy the Tower Bridge experience more than had we just walked around and talked to them about it. Having fun really helps with the learning they can achieve at an experience like this.

Zena Goldman, travel, family and lifestyle blogger
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It was really handy as I learnt a lot and it was fun at the same time. I think it was great as it made my visit much more interesting.

The Piper family, aged 9 & 11 years

Tower Bridge is one of the most famous and instantly recognisable structures in the world. Built over 120 years ago and considered an engineering marvel, each year over 830,000 people visit the Tower Bridge Exhibition, a significant proportion of whom are visiting London as families from the UK and abroad.

In 2016, Exhibition Development Manager for the Bridge and The Monument, Dirk Bennett decided that it was time to harness the power of the smartphone to inspire, engage and most of all, entertain these families. As you can tell from the comments above, he was right to do so – and Calvium was delighted to work with the Tower Bridge Exhibition team to help them realise their ambition.

The Family Trail App is a bespoke digital placemaking experience that allows young people to navigate ships under the Bridge by tipping their smartphone from side to side or fix its engines by using the phone as a wrench, collect its sounds to compose original tunes along the way and complete London’s stunning skyline and much more. It is a playful exploration of the most celebrated bridge in the world from right inside it.

Due to the success of the original App, in 2019 Calvium was invited to add new ways of interacting with the Bridge, so now visitors can also ‘match the plaques’ (who doesn’t love a bit of alliteration?) and become brilliant bridge builders. Match the Plaques showcases the bridge’s pavement art installation in a card-matching-style game; each plaque commemorates someone who used to work on the bridge. The update also introduces a new puzzle game where young visitors can build the bridge, piecing blocks together, and providing an entertaining moment in a quieter area of the exhibition.

“We published an updated version in response to visitor research, to incorporate new interpretation and to align it with our new visual identity launched last summer,” said Dirk Bennett, Exhibition Development Manager for the Bridge and The Monument. “The Family Trail App forms an integral part of the visitor journey and the overall interpretive strategy for Tower Bridge and we look forward to our visiting families enjoying the new app throughout our 125th birthday year.”

Calvium’s UX & Design Lead, Kieron Gurner, explains a bit more about the project, “Inspired by the mechanical, physical outputs of Tower Bridge’s Victorian engineering, we aimed to connect visitors with the often-overlooked physicality of their phones. These games utilise the physical context that the phone has, like the accelerometer, which understands movement and gravity, and the microphone, which can respond to volume. It’s easy to forget that the phone knows a lot about the world it’s in; how it’s being held or moved, and how loud it’s surroundings are – which the app makes use of in playful ways, to connect the visitors with their environment even more.”

And that’s what digital placemaking for cultural heritage locations is all about – the creative and judicious use of digital technologies to deliver bespoke digitally enabled services, products and experiences to make places more meaningful. At its core, digital placemaking is focused on making places better, attracting visitors to deepen, or transform, their connection with museums and heritage sites and, in turn, with each other.

Tower Bridge is unique and recognised the world over – with 164,262 images on Flickr. By refreshing the App and providing a wealth of interesting ways for younger visitors to interact with the bridge, they are able to discover its heritage as well as the important role that the bridge plays in 21st century London.

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