Last year, Detroit Experience Factory took 13,000 people around the city. This April, its busiest season when the world was stopped by a global health pandemic, that number was zero.
Now, with new health and safety guidelines in place, the Detroit resource is adapting it’s walking tours to be social distance-friendly and introducing a new virtual tour for those who would prefer to stay at home.
“Google allows you to access any street view they’ve ever done from 2007, so you can basically time travel and geography doesn’t really matter anymore.” — Jeanette Pierce, Detroit Experience Factory
“What we’re able to do with the technology is amazing,” says Jeanette Pierce, who founded the factory in 2006 with a mission to use immersive storytelling as a tool to educate locals and in-coming Detroiters about the city and its people.
Listen: Jeanette Pierce talks about the Detroit Experience Factory and its approach to engaging people during a pandemic.
The factory is an exploratory resource that dives deep into the city’s places, spaces and people. To stay afloat during the pandemic, the team had to expand their approach in making the tours work, including limited in-person walking tours to 15 people. The ‘Best of Detroit’ tour is led by local guides who provide narration and instructions via audio. Guests are required to wear masks and bring headphones to connect to their mobile device for the experience.
Something altogether new is the free virtual tour, which offers a more in-depth and interactive experience through Zoom and Google Street View.
Pierce is also founder of City Institute and admits to being a little apprehensive about the digital expansion in the beginning.
“Google allows you to access any street view they’ve ever done from 2007, so you can basically time travel and geography doesn’t really matter anymore,” she says. “Now, we can go from Artist Village in Old Redford to DAAB Cultural Collective and Detroit Pepper Company on East Warren in two seconds. We would not have been able to include those in the same tour, in person. ”
The latest programming also allows guides to merge historic images and infographics for contextual storytelling.