Beyond Leaning: Exploring Visitors' Perceptions of the Value and Benefits of Museum Experiences
In this study, Jan Packer calls attention to the importance of “restoration” during a museum visit. This research study is for museum practitioners to better understand and meet visitors’ needs and expectations; particularly to help achieve a relaxing ‘get-away’ within museum settings.
Packer expands on research from other literature, and bases this study at the Queensland Museum in Australia. During this study, packer seeks to understand various types of experiences that museum visitors may have. Qualitative research was used by conducting a series of 44 interviews to 60 people attending this museum to gain further knowledge of what visitors were benefiting from during their time spend in this environment.
Brief, simple and open-ended questions were asked during the interviews to help find answers to the bigger picture:
· What do the visitors value from the museum setting?
· What experiences do visitors engage in at museums?
· What benefits do they gain from their museum visit?
The results of the interviews conveyed that ambient conditions “atmosphere”, spatial layout and functionality as well as signs and symbols all link to what makes a ‘satisfying experience’ to museum visitors.
This article uses Zahara Doering’s (1999) key experiences that museums provide to help with the expansion of how these experiences lead to the larger benefit of well-being through a satisfying experience.
· Object experiences
· Cognitive experiences
· Introspective experiences
· Social experiences
These satisfying and positive experiences give evidence that there are benefits beyond learning in the museum context. Museums have the potential to stimulate and nurture phycological well-being; autonomy, personal growth, environmental mastery, purpose in life, positive relations and self-acceptance. As well as nourish happiness, relaxation, peace and tranquillity and thoughtfulness in our communities.
Packer’s study is limited to the Queensland museum; a contemporary style building with a big, glass opening. “…This is a nice building to walk in to. The overall effect is quite open and light and you have a lot of space to move around…” (quote from an interview in the article). Click here for a link to Queensland Museum's website.
Contemporary museum design is often open and filled with light and space. The architecture usually has a unique form that stands out as a landmark and attracts visitors. This simple google search is of contemporary museums - most of them are attractive and are inspiring designs.
Though contemporary museum environments are always being built or updated, it is not the most common type of museum environment to visit.
This article could expand on the fact that not all museums are going to have this same positive and restorative nature to their visitor’s experience as the Queensland Museum. Perhaps this article would be better purposed for contemporary museum design to help museum practitioners expand on the potential benefits to their cliental when updating/restoring or building a museum.
Take Toitū, Otago Settlers Museum in Dunedin for example; this museum has had renovations done to the Museum's entrance. It is now contemporary and open, a relaxing, restorative space one would say… then as you walk through the museum and into the older part, the ceilings become very low and parts of it get so small as you go through that it feels like a rabbit warren. It would be far to say that the foyer/entrance shop and cafe have the quality of restorative experiences but beyond the foyer wouldn’t have the same restorative effect would it?