Monday, November 8, 2010

Observational Blog 10: Attracting Visitors

Museums in the twenty-first century are essentially based on the visitor experience. John Falk suggests in his book Identity and the Museum Visitor Experience that museums have become “marketing-driven” (185). He claims, “A majority of museum-goers report that the primary thing that influenced them to visit was a word-of-mouth recommendation from friends and/or family,” (187). In order for someone to recommend a museum to another, their experience must have been positive. People are influenced greatly by the reviews of their friends and family. Falk goes on to say, “For all museums, advertising and publicity programs account for less than 20% of visitors,” (187). I have to agree with Falk when he says, “This, of course, becomes somewhat circular—in order for there to be a successful word-of-mouth promotion, people have to go to the museum in the first place, for people to go to the museum in the first place, they need to be encouraged by someone else who had a successful museum experience,” (187-88). So how do people decide to go to museums initially if the collections and content of the museum and the marketing of those objects only consist of a small percentage of people’s reasons for visiting? One has to wonder if this chain begins simply with the people who attend museums regularly are the ones who spread the positive word-of-mouth promotions.
Nina Simon discusses in The Participatory Museum visitors as contributors. Simon states, “contributory activities can be offered to visitors of all types without much setup or participant coaching…Contributory projects are also in many case the only type of participatory experience in which visitors can seamlessly move from functioning as participants to audience and back again,” (204). Simon mentions the Denver Community Museum’s exhibition Bottled Up! People were invited to create a bottle filled with memories of people, places, and other significant things in their lives. Many people contributed to this exhibition and encouraged other visitors to open the bottles and view their secrets. Relating to what Falk said, how did the visitors who contributed hear about the exhibition in the first place? Would they have heard about it from a friend that visited the museum and saw they were asking for contributions for a new exhibit or through advertising? The exhibition was very successful and many people came and participated in it. One has to wonder if the success of the exhibition was due to word-of-mouth encouragement or through the advertisements the museum used.

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