Edsel &  Eleanor Ford House in Grosse Pointe Shores, Mich., continues the Ford family legacy of innovation and technology with the launch of its own iPhone and iPad application and interactive tour.  The app is now available free of charge on iTunes and as a web app for most smartphones. Pre-loaded iPod Touches are also provided on-site to guests.

The launch of the mobile app and tour reflects another crucial step in Ford House’s 2010-2015 strategic plan – increasing accessibility to the Ford Family story by sharing their personal stories of innovation and creativity, giving guests an epic visitor experience superior to anything at a museum or historic site in the United States.

In an effort to create greater accessibility, the Ford House has launched an abbreviated version of the mobile tour as a “web app” (in addition to the iPhone app), allowing most Internet-enabled smartphones to experience the tour, as well.

The app features 60 minutes of exclusive video content, an original soundtrack, and never-before-seen archival footage of the Ford family at play. The tour uses home movies, photos, an interactive map of the Ford House estate, site-specific interviews and much more, stirring up genuinely heartfelt emotion for this close-knit family. Guests literally enter the Ford story with just a few simple touches on their smartphone screen, becoming the  leader in their own journey through the estate.

Many videos were filmed by Edsel Ford himself, using his own personal camera. It’s an intimate look into the auto legend’s mind at a pinnacle time in the Ford family history. While a time machine doesn’t exist quite yet, the Ford House iPhone app is about as close as one can get to going back in time.

“It’s unlike any museum tour I’ve seen,” said Kathleen Mullins, president of Ford House.  “It literally allows visitors to enter the story by providing access to personal movies of the family when they weren’t in the public eye, relaxed and enjoying being a family.  It’s very personal and sometimes deeply emotional.  Visitors will be able to connect with this iconic family in a whole new way.”

For example, guests walking near the family swimming pool will touch the screen to begin a video of Eleanor and the children playing by the pool, standing in the space where it actually happened. Or they will be able to watch touching footage of Edsel and Eleanor ice skating before Edsel’s untimely death.

The app offers several options to users: take a guided tour; explore on your own; meet the Ford family; meet landscape architect Jens Jensen; and browse a comprehensive photo gallery.

Through exclusive video, photos and interviews, the iPhone tour explores both the interiors and exteriors of the home, including the lakeside lawn, lagoon, swimming pool, flower garden, the meadow, boat house, garage, Bird Island peninsula and more.

The Edsel & Eleanor Ford House App, produced by award-winning Audissey Media, has been in development since January 2010. (For a sneak preview of the iPhone tour, visit www.fordhouse.org).

Audissey Media is a pioneer in the high-tech tourism industry, allowing travelers to use their smartphone as a personal tour guide. In addition to Ford House, the company has created Audissey Guides for downtown Houston, Washington D.C., and Boston Public Garden.

“This mobile app puts the visitor in the driver’s seat,” said Rob Pyles, Creative Director at Audissey Media. “This technology is a sort of liberation from the traditional, passive museum experience. It’s really about you - what do you want to explore? I think Edsel would have thought it was the perfect way to share his home with visitors. This positions the Ford House as a real leader in the field.”

Approximately 75 percent of the project was funded by outside sources, including a grant from the MotorCities National Heritage Area, part of the National Parks Service, and donations received through last fall’s Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan Arts & Culture Challenge Grant program. The latter issued a challenge grant to area cultural institutions encouraging the use of web-based technology and social media for fundraising outreach.

“In the spirit of the challenge, we thought it was quite fitting to further the Ford family legacy and our use of new media by directing some of the donations received through Community Foundation’s initiative to develop this programming,” Mullins said.

Visitors may use an iPod Touch from the Ford House or download the free app from iTunes.  Most other smartphones can access the tour as a web app from their phones at www.fordhouse.org/mobiletour.

Admission and rental: Admission to Ford House, which includes a guided tour and use of an iPod Touch, is $12 per person, $11 for seniors and $8 for children six to 12 years old, with children 5 and under free. iPod Touch rental will be $5 for guests  who have purchased grounds-only admission. It is free to Ford House members. Guests may also use their own smartphone on the tour.

Edsel & Eleanor Ford House is located at 1100 Lake Shore Road in Grosse Pointe Shores.  Since 1978, Ford House has welcomed hundreds of thousands of visitors to share in Eleanor Ford’s vision of preserving the estate for future generations to enjoy through interpretive tours, family activities, lectures, exhibits and gardens and grounds events.  For more information, visit www.fordhouse.org or call 313.884.4222.


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