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Design Factors in the Museum Visitor Experience

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Snapshot presentation given at the Museums Australia National Conference, Adelaide, September 2012

Snapshot presentation given at the Museums Australia National Conference, Adelaide, September 2012


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  • 1. Design Factors in theMuseum Visitor ExperienceSnapshot of a PhD Project in Progress26th September 2012Regan ForrestPrincipal Supervisor: Dr Jan PackerAssociate Advisor: Professor Roy Ballantyne
  • 2. Research Problem Environment Peer critique as incidental “Design” Exhibition “Pedagogical” Perspective Environment Perspective ? Visitor Perspective“[a]lthough millions are spent yearly on upgrades and renovations, it is verypossible that these additions and improvements are focusing on the wrongthings . . . ” (Joseph-Mathews et al., 2009, p. 206).
  • 3. Components of the Museum Visit Reported Experience Visitor Goals and Exhibition Visitor Outcomes Motivations Environment Observed Behaviour
  • 4. ‘Museum Atmospherics’ Model ExhibitionEnvironment Perceived Atmosphere Visitor Attention Experience •Design Message Appearance Affect • Behavioural •Spatiality • Affective •Information Rate • Cognitive VisitorMotivations & Goals
  • 5. Research Questions• How do visitors perceive and respond to atmospheric cues in the exhibition environment? In what ways does this influence the visitor experience?• What are the principal dimensions of visitors’ perceptions of exhibition atmospheres and how do these relate to the broader literature (Design Appearance, Spatiality, Information Rate)?• What is the relationship between perceived atmosphere and visitor responses (affective, cognitive and behavioural)?
  • 6. Study Sites –PermanentExhibitions at SAM
  • 7. Research Approach• Phase 1: qualitative exploration of how visitors perceive exhibition environments• Phase 2: development of a quantitative instrument to measure environmental perceptions in an exhibition setting• Phase 3: study of the relationship between perceived atmosphere and visitor experience
  • 8. Methodology: Visual Summary QUAL QUANPhase 1 Data Data Collection Phase 3 Collection Observation QUAL Data Survey Analysis quan QUANPhase 2 Data Data Analysis Collection quan Integrating of Data research Analysis results
  • 9. Phase 1 Data Collection• 12 pre-arranged accompanied visits to exhibition spaces in SA Museum (13 participants)• Think-aloud method plus follow-up interview generated 14 hours of data• A detailed, real-time account of a museum visit as simultaneously experienced by researcher and participant
  • 10. Preliminary Thematic Analysis Technique Response Description Reflection Objects / Labels Design / Display Information Attention Environment Message / meaning Meaning Interaction Personal Reflection Crowding Orientational Barriers Other Informational Integration / Linking Ergonomic Sensory
  • 11. Next steps• Consolidate findings from Phase 1• Instrument development• Pilot and conduct main study (3 exhibitions x 150 visitors each)