Monday, November 15, 2010

Making Museums Work for Visitors

In Chapter 10 “Making Museums Work for Visitors” of John Falk’s book Identity and the Museum Visitor Experience was very informative from a museum studies perspective. Falk broke down the needs of each type of museum visitors. There are five categories of museum visitors Falk goes into detail about:

  1. Explorers
  2. Facilitators
  3. Experience Seekers
  4. Professional/Hobbyists
  5. Rechargers

John Falk states, “Each individual visitor is equally capable of enacting any of these visit motivations on any given day. The key to making your museum work is understanding what motivates each visitor to your museum on that particular day and then, ensuring that the experiences they have with exhibits, programs, staff, and museum amenities fulfill the needs determined by those motivations” (page 231). For each group of visitors Falk breaks down the type of experience each one demands. The problem (for me) is each group wants something different, it seems incapable for the museum to compromise. This group wants to read the labels, this one does not care about the labels - this group loves the gift shops, this group does not want to visit the gift shop - this group wants to be in a quiet place to recharge and view the content, this group normally comes in a social group and spends most of their time socializing than viewing the contents - and so on…

Where does a museum find a some type of agreement?

It bothered me that Falk’s “back-up plan” was the Internet, using the museum website to further the museum experience. In my own personal experience a visitor will use the internet for directions and admission costs that is the only time they use the museum’s website prior to their arrival.  Afterwards, I might use it if one of the docents mentioned an upcoming program or exhibit but that is IF they only mentioned it and did not hand me a pamphlet.  Yet, I do not disagree completely with Falk’s ideas on the Internet. I believe museums’ website are excellent sources for schools, students, and museum professions. But the “average Joe” who visits the museum, I do not know if they will access the website once they return to their home.

          I appreciated that John Falk broke everything down for the reader. It was easier for me to compare the different types of museum visitors and what they needed out of their museum experience. It seems overall that each individual who enters the museum Explorers to Rechargers just wants to have a great museum experience.  

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