Friday, September 17, 2010

Observational Report 1

          Museums need to stay relevant to the times and therefore must make changes to the way in which they run the museum and design its exhibitions. It is now essential to actively engage the visitors and invite them to participate. Museums must be careful when they are thinking of ideas for visitor participation and activity because they need to maintain their goal as a non-profit institution focused on education. Nina Simon’s focus of her book The Participatory Museum is to show that visitors are the heart of the museum experience. It is vital to the success of a museum to know who its audience is and to target them in their exhibitions; however, the museum also needs to try to draw new people into the museum. Simon expresses the importance of a visitor’s experience because it portrays the influence museums have on society.
John Falk describes in his book Identity and the Museum Visitor Experience that by understanding who is attending museums, what they are doing when they are inside, and the meaning they derive from an exhibition can reveal what the public thinks is beneficial. Falk uses case studies to show that demographics are not reliable in determining how a person is going to respond to a particular museum or exhibition. Falk mentioned how people decide when they will attend a museum. Many people decide to go to satisfy curiosity while others go for a leisure activity.
Museums need to be careful when they are trying to invite visitors in to maintain their mission. There is a fine line from actively engaging the visitors and making the museum fun to merging into edutainment. Walt Disney merged education and entertainment in the theme parks and movies; however, it can be argued that people are not learning as much as is desired. A museum needs to be cautious to keep from becoming more focused on attracting visitors and showing them a good time rather than educating them as well as making it a fun and enjoyable experience. The visitor experience is everything. Simon and Falk both try to explain the importance of participation of visitors.

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