Open House New York: Public Engagement Guide

Guide and Trainings // Summer 2022

Turnstile Studio consulted with Open House New York in the summer of 2022 to develop a Public Engagement Guide for Weekend partners for Open House New York Weekend, an annual citywide festival where hundreds of organizations, businesses, and individuals provide free access for members of the public to unique behind-the-scenes experiences. The Public Engagement Guide provides guidance about what makes a meaningful and successful visitor experience for OHNY Weekend and how to plan and prepare for hosting the public, including best practices and insights and inspiration from previous weekends. In order to create the Guide, Turnstile facilitated a series of interviews and focus groups with OHNY stakeholders, including staff, board members, and volunteers, and conducted a comprehensive review of OHNY programming and materials from the previous 19 years of the festival. The Guide was also supplemented with a pair of training workshops led by Turnstile staff to familiarize partners with it and help them prepare and plan for the weekend.

A group of people in jackets are standing in front of a concrete building with big windows and balconies at the Brooklyn Army Terminal. A man with a beard points up as others look to where he's pointing

Storm King Art Center: Hospitality and Accessibility

Professional development and capacity building // 2022 – 2025

Storm King engaged Turnstile Studio as a lead consultant to support a multiyear project funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services that seeks to build the organization’s capacity to provide inclusive and accessible visitor experiences through professional development. As a first step, our team conducted an assessment that involved surveys and listening sessions with staff, volunteers, and board members, a review of relevant materials, as well as coordinating visits by and gathering feedback from a range of cultural accessibility professionals and disability advocates. Based on the results, we are now working with Storm King staff to implement targeted strategies, including customized training workshops and train-the-trainer resources, relationship-building efforts with access advisors and advocacy organizations, and guidance for staff on inclusive practices that apply to wherever and however they interact with and support visitors.

Two people pose and smile in front of an accessible tram, one who is using a wheelchair and the other who is kneeling beside her

Historic Hudson Valley: Virtual Field Trips

Planning, Training, and Program Development // 2022-2023

Historic Hudson Valley (HHV) engaged Turnstile Studio to provide technical and training support for the pre-existing virtual field trip Slavery in the Colonial North and for the roll out of a new virtual field trip called Invisible Women, funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the National Endowment for the Humanities, respectively. While the scope and size of each project was distinct, our team worked concurrently on both projects between February 1, 2022 and June 30, 2023 to support program development, evaluation, and offer training workshops and resources to build HHV’s in-house training capacity. Highlights included:

  • Outcomes-Based Logic Models that we created with staff to identify and clarify target audiences, program goals, outcomes, and impact in support of program development and evaluation.
  • Baseline Assessment to chart out strategies that were informed by staff members’ expressed needs and by digital learning experts whom we interviewed about student engagement methods online.
  • A resource guide on facilitating engaging virtual field trip for students that can be used internally by HHV and/or distributed to the museum field with credits to contributors.
  • Lesson plan support to assist HHV in effectively translating substantive humanities content into an interactive online environment appropriate for students. 
  • Training workshops to equip staff with practical skills and knowledge to help them gain comfort in leading student-centered virtual field trips.
  • Train-the-trainer lesson plans to ensure HHV’s ability to train educators in effective practices, as well as resources that focus on practical application of knowledge, skills, and techniques, including handouts, video tutorials, and activities to complement the delivery of future in-house workshops. 
A man in a beard and classes appears in a box in the upper right-hand corner while the rest of the screen is taken up with an image of a white historic house with a bridge in the foreground and text that reads a visit to Philipsburg Manor

Expanding Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s Welcome

Staff Training and Capacity Building for Accessibility // 2019–2022

Turnstile was engaged by Brooklyn Botanic Garden to act as the lead consultant in the implementation of a four-year grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services titled “Expanding BBG’s Welcome,” which sought to build training capacity to make the Garden more accessible to people with disabilities. Turnstile conducted a baseline internal assessment of the experience and knowledge of staff related to accessibility through observations, surveys, and focus groups by department. Using the results of the assessment, Turnstile designed and led practice-oriented training workshops for over 200 frontline staff across the institution that were customized by departmental roles. Turnstile developed and produced six disability awareness training videos, complete with guiding lesson plans and activities for training staff, that were developed in collaboration with disability advocates and BBG staff, all of which are now being used for in-house staff trainings. Topics explored include accessible wayfinding, service dogs, hearing access, welcoming visitors with behavioral differences, and multimodal communication strategies. Turnstile also supported the Garden in creating a Best Practices Working Group that consists of disability service providers and advocates who serve as advisors and trainers for the Garden, the roll out of accessible services, and interdepartmental coordination on planning and budgeting for accessibility and crafting institutional policies and procedures.


Green-Wood Cemetery: Visitor Engagement Training Workshop and Resources

Professional Development Workshop and Capacity-Building Resources // 2017

In the spring of 2017, Turnstile Studio was contracted by Green-Wood Cemetery to develop and conduct a customized professional development workshop for their tour guides and staff with a focus on techniques and best practices for providing an inclusive and engaging experience for all visitors. In addition to the training workshop, Turnstile’s team produced capacity-building resources for the institution, including training materials and resources for future workshops, as well as  a report with recommendations related to visitor engagement on tours of Green-Wood based on tour observations, assessment of online and printed visitor materials, and best practices across the museum and tourism fields.

Green-Wood Cemetery

Humanities New York: Designing for Public Engagement

Professional Development Workshop for Public Humanities Fellows // 2016–2018

Turnstile hosted a two-part professional development workshop for three cohorts of Public Humanities Ph.D. Fellows at Humanities New York that explored the challenges and opportunities of creating publicly accessible resources and programming with community partners, informants, and collaborators. Using the Food Cart Tour as a common reference point, combined with a series of facilitated activities, workshop participants shared ideas, questions, and concerns about their respective community-oriented projects, learned about and discussed logistical and ethical considerations for designing and implementing public-facing projects, and reviewed project management tools that support facilitating mutually beneficial collaboration with community partners.

Humanities New York: Designing for Public Engagement Whiteboard

CUNY Graduate Center: Workshop on Guided Tours

Engaging Guided Tours: Techniques and Best Practices // 2016

On October 28, 2016, Cindy VandenBosch and Andrew Gustafson of Turnstile Tours led a workshop at the City University of New York’s Center for the Humanities as part of Afterlives: Place, Memory, Story, a day-long conference hosted by the Public History Collective. This workshop introduced attendees to best practices in developing and delivering guided tour experiences that are accessible, engaging, and rigorously researched. Through case studies drawn from Turnstile’s extensive experience in the field, and through modeling practices, participants learned about strategies for developing content for place-based learning, storytelling techniques, group management, as well as other approaches to ensure that visitors have an enjoyable and educational tour experience that is meaningfully connected to the tour’s location.

CUNY Graduate Center: Workshop on Guided Tours

Singapore Tourism Board: Destination Experience Workshop

Presentations on tour development and storytelling // 2016

Turnstile’s Andrew Gustafson was invited to attend a two-day workshop in Singapore hosted by the Tourism Board’s Tour & Industry Development team and attended by local tour operators, attractions, and guides. Andrew facilitated a workshop and presentation, “Developing Quality Tour Content,” on tour development, guide training, and effective visitor engagement techniques, and delivered the keynote address on the second day of the program, “Delivering the Story: Storytelling Techniques for Guided Tours,” drawing on Turnstile Tours’ experience with multi-sensory engagement, narrative development, and guide evaluation. Andrew also visited several attractions in Singapore and provided feedback on guide technique and interpretation, including the Chinatown Heritage Center and Singapore City Tours.

Chinatown Heritage Center and Singapore City Tours

Singapore Tourism Board & National Heritage Board: Guided Tour Consulting

Guided Tour Consulting for the Attractions and Experience Development Series in Singapore // 2013

Staff from Turnstile Tours and the Lower East Side Tenement Museum were invited to Singapore by the country’s Tourism Board, Association of Singapore AttractionsWorkforce Development Agency, and the National Heritage Board to provide trainings and consultations on storytelling skills and developing more engaging, interactive guided tours for cultural institutions, tourist attractions, and tour companies. As part of a professional development series entitled “Delivering the Story,” Turnstile Tours’ Cindy VandenBosch and the Lower East Side Tenement Museum’s Director of Education Miriam Bader conducted a half-day seminar, full-day masterclass, and keynote lectures on topics such as multi-sensory engagement on tours, training and retaining guides, responding to visitor feedback, current trends and practices in museum education and tourism, and community-based partnerships for cultural programming. 

Singapore Tourism Board logo

Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation: Ambassador Training

Visitor services trainings for security and front-line staff // 2014

This interactive training session for the security staff at the Brooklyn Navy Yard focused on visitor interaction, customer service, and anticipating and adapting to the needs of visitors, including people with disabilities. Led by Cindy VandenBosch, this session explored scenarios and proposed strategies for anticipating and addressing the needs of the wide range of visitors that come to the Brooklyn Navy Yard Center at BLDG 92 in efforts to provide a more welcoming experience for all, including first-time visitors, area residents seeking employment services, and people with visible and invisible disabilities. With training tools and examples drawn from real-life scenarios at BLDG 92, topics covered included tools and tips for positive and proactive visitor engagement, a basic review of effective communication strategies and barrier-free aspects of the the American with Disabilities Act, and interactive exercises to generate group-based discussion on effective practices specific to BLDG 92.

BLDG 92 Lobby

Neighborhood Women: Tour Consulting

Technical assistance in walking tour development for neighborhood placemaking initiative // 2012

Turnstile founder Cindy VandenBosch provided support to Neighborhood Women, a non-profit organization based in North Brooklyn, to help shape and develop a walking tour based on the stories of female community leaders as part of a place-marking initiative. Cindy provided feedback to the tour development team on techniques for incorporating personal stories within the context of larger neighborhood issues, while using visual cues, primary sources, and audience participation to support storytelling.  Feedback and support was also provided regarding logistical implementation of the tour, from designing a realistic, achievable route to staying on time and providing locations for attendees to sit down and rest throughout the experience.

Neighborhood Women