Audience Research - visitor wants

What do people want from a museum visit?

Jeff Leis talking with visitors

Jeff Leis talking with visitors
Photographer: Mark McGrouther © Australian Museum

Visitors have many needs when they visit a museum. Through analysing a number of evaluation studies conducted at the Australian Museum we have found that visitors have a range of wants.

  • hands-on (active) experiences
  • to be able to use all their senses
  • something to take away with them from their visit
  • to start from familiar concepts and things and move to unfamiliar
  • to control their own experience and amount and depth of information they access
  • to cater for all levels of learning, for different age groups and for adults and children
  • exhibitions that help them learn something new
  • to touch objects and displays
  • not too much reading
  • computer interactives that enhance the exhibition and are not just 'button-pressing'
  • to be able to zoom-in/get up close to objects and displays
  • exhibits that are well maintained and working at all times
  • staff on the floor to answer questions and bring the exhibition alive
  • exhibits that are realistic
  • places in exhibitions where they can sit down and 'take it in'
  • exhibitions that encourage talking/sharing among the group

In our research with parents we have found that they have specific needs. Given that families make up around 60% of our audience they are a key group that we research. Parents want child appropriate exhibitions which:

  • allow children to learn in an enjoyable way;
  • provide new experiences, insights;
  • complement school-based learning;
  • are interactive and allow them to touch and experiment;
  • have minimal reading;
  • are at an appropriate height;
  • provide sufficient installations to avoid queuing;
  • cater for a range of ages and abilities; and
  • keep parents entertained as well!

Other research reviewed a number of exhibition evaluations to see what information people wanted from the Museum's anthropological and natural history collections and I have blogged about that here.

Lynda Kelly
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