As I read Identity and the Museum Visitor Experience by John H. Falk it made me realize how much museums rely on their visitors, as Falk stated on page 35 “visitors are the museum and the museum is the visitor”. Falk’s goal is to help change the quality of how museums understand and support the public’s museum visitor experiences. Falk has three questions he believes if museums knew the answer they would gain critical insights into how the public derives value and benefits from museum visits. The three questions are:
1. Who goes to museums?
2. What visitors’ do once they are in the museum?
3. What meaning does visitors make from the experience?
On August 14, 2010 I went on a Bus Trip that was organized by the National First Ladies’ Library (NFLL) one of the places we visited on the trip was Cleveland’s Zoo, to see the Rainforest exhibit. The ladies that accompanied the trip were a majority of older women, senior citizens, and on that day it was hot. It was a typical day for Ohio in August, about ninety-three degrees Fahrenheit. The women were not interested in the zoo or its exhibit. From what I observed they looked at the animals for about 30 seconds then walked onwards. They did not read the labels or observe the animals closely. They had about two hours at the Rainforest but most finished the tour in about an hour. They sat at the cafeteria to wait for the bus, which was to depart to Hudson for lunch.
What meaning did they receive from the visit? Who knows? Who is at fault? The zoo? NFLL? Weather? The question I really want to know is how does a museum “force” (in some way) their visitors to look closely at their exhibits even when their visitors are uncomfortable. How can a museum control something that is uncontrollable? Like the weather? Or age?
Museums that are outdoors like: zoos, botanical gardens, or Colonial Williamsburg how do you create a universal design when a thing like weather does not always fall under your favor. From my experience the simple thing like it being too hot out, was the answer to why the women that day on the bus trip left the Rainforest without receiving any true meaning from the exhibit.