How the House Works

The Office of Art and Archives for the U.S. House of Representatives wished to launch a mobile guide to serve the many diverse audiences that work inside and visit. The impetus for creating this mobile experience was the launch of How the House Works, an exhibition in the Cannon House Office Building. This permanent exhibition includes historic artifacts and documents which illuminate the surprisingly diverse work and workers who keep the House of Representatives running.

The challenge of this experience was developing content for a wide breadth of users including members of government, their staffers, and nonpolitical staff, as well as lobbyists, the visiting public & constituents, and VIPs.

To arrive at the best approach, the Office of Art and Archives engaged CultureConnect to develop a digital strategy first that then guided the content development.

More than just a guide of the exhibition content, the mobile guide told a broader story of how Congress works and serves as a training tool for staffers giving tours as much as a collection of historical anecdotes and rich media that’s fascinating for everyone doing business at the capitol.

  • Mobile Guide
Special Features
  • 3D Content
  • Image Mosaic Module
  • Hotspots Feature
Special Services
  • Digital Strategy
  • On-site Workshop

"I loved seeing the things I know about up close as well as the cool things I never knew. It was like enjoying hors d'oeuvres, it all made me just hungrier to learn."

– House of Representatives Staffer


The exhibits on display within the Cannon House Office Building are not in a traditional gallery space. Each person passing through the exhibit space has arrived with a purpose – staffers giving private tours, citizens visiting their representative, or lobbyists, reporters and administrators conducting regular business.

The primary objective of the digital strategy workshop was to better understand each user’s use case and journey in the Cannon House Office Building in order to develop content and ensure we were getting the mobile guide into user’s hands.

Pro Tip: Marketing & Distribution is a key component of all mobile guide projects and one that we recommend is addressed throughout the project with communications & visitors services stakeholders.

In the weeks preceding our digital strategy workshop, Visitor Services and Appointment Desk staff provided their insight along with the client team to help build a comprehensive picture of the onsite experience. It quickly became clear that this mobile guide needed to be a:

  • Tour of the exhibit installation as well as interesting and useful if used away from the exhibit.
  • Training tool for staffers giving tours to hundreds of thousands of guests (beyond the general public visitors).
  • Public engagement tool for those waiting in line to visit the Capitol Visitors Center.
  • Opportunity to teach, entertain, and instill pride for those who’ve worked in the building for a long time.


Many users may be pressed for time or on-the-go when engaging with the application initially, while at the same time they may want to dive deeper at another time. This meant that we needed to craft content in layers, bite-sized chunks, and with a bias towards interactivity and multimedia (over long text blocks).

To accomplish this, the mobile guide cleverly uses image carousels, the image mosaic module, embedded media within text blocks, animated touch points on images (hotspots), and 3D content. Some examples of how the app utilized these features:

  • Image carousels offered a perfect solution for ledgers or books with several important pages and for before and after conservation images.
  • Hotspots were applied to posters and photographs to identify important characters and provide historical context.
  • Image mosaics were applied to showcase related artifacts not on display such as interesting items unearthed during a renovation.
  • 3D model of the Mace of the U.S. House of Representatives is presented to ensure visitors can see all of the symbols and artistry put into the mace’s design.


The mobile guide content showcases American history through the activities, memories, and milestone events that took place right where you, a visitor or staff member, may be standing! For example, interactive images featuring suffragette Victoria Woodhull tells the story of the first woman to testify ’s before a House committe in her fight for a woman’s right to vote.

The app also provides behind-the-scenes facts to help visitors navigate the sites and sounds – for example, helping a new visitor interpret the buzzers going off throughout the office buildings while the House is in session. One light means the house is in session. Check out the app to learn what the other five signals mean!


The mobile guide’s content centered around the objects featured in this permanent physical installation, employing each object as an entry point to tell a broader story and showcase additional artifacts and media. Ensuring the digital experience aligned to the physical installations in a busy space with multiple entry points meant creating a non-linear mobile guide experience. Rather than dictate ordered ‘stops’ on a single tour, we created four thematic tours that aligned to the four main installations.

The exhibit design firm, Design Minds, deployed one of four colors across the four installations with the themes: Lawmaking in the Chamber, Purpose and Place, Serving the People, Speaker Cannon’s Legacy. Similarly, the color scheme in each tour in the mobile guide reflected the colors featured in each of the four installations to reinforce visual cues and provide a way-finding trigger.

Another way-finding trigger used instead of the traditional stop code numbers is the Visual Navigation at the bottom of each content page. Visual Navigation is a series of image tiles the user can tap to navigate to another content page, navigation within the app triggered by what’s visually interesting in the collection.

All of these components come together to help create flexible navigation. Whether a user enters the space and first sees an object across the room or a visitor discovers an object in the app and seeks it out in the physical space, the mobile guide is designed to offer layers of visual cues to help a user connect with the story they want to learn about.