Museum Experience

In trying to understand the museum experience one must be able to create a holistic approach.  This means creating an experience not based on a certain aspect alone but an encounter with someone or something with the full awareness of the impact it brings to an individual.  This paper seeks to discover the museum experience.  It seeks to answer questions that revolve around individuals with regards to how to experience the whole value a museum can offer.

The first part of the paper seeks to explain the concept of museum experience. In appreciating the impact of experience a museum has to offer, one must first be able to understand its nature and concept.  One way of grasping the concept of museum experience is creating a model that will be used as a guideline of experience. The model is called Interactive Experience Model. We have found this model to be a useful framework within which to organize and interpret the wealth of research and information that make up the museum visitor literature, as well as relevant research from psychology, anthropology, and sociology.

[1] The structure of the model are based on three sections; personal, social and physical. In the personal context, “each museum visitor’s personal context is unique; it incorporates a variety of experiences and knowledge, including varying degrees of experience in and knowledge of the content and design of the museum.”[2]  The next context involves the social context.  Understanding the social context of the visit allows us to make sense of variations in behavior between, for example, adults in family groups and adults in adult groups, or children on school field trips and children visiting with their families.

[3]  Lastly, “the museum is a physical setting that visitors, usually freely, choose to enter. The physical context includes the architecture and “feel” of the building, as well as the objects and artifacts contained within.[4] The Interactive Experience Model suggests that all three contexts should contribute significantly to the museum experience, though not necessarily in equal proportion in all cases.[5] The model clearly attempts to have a holistic approach in determining the value of museum experience felt by an individual. Thus in museum experience, awareness must occur in the process of overall grasping of ideas and experiences felt.

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The next part of the paper seeks the idea of how museums communicate to an individual or groups. In the recent and changing times, the museums’ challenge is to be an institution that can showcase an effective way of exhibiting and showcasing ideas that can create a memorable and valuable experience. Another challenge for museum educators is that of giving proper scope to cultural diversity while acknowledging the impossibility of presenting a collection that is all-inclusive.

[6] Creating museum communication means preparing a scenario will create a lasting effect to individuals. Learning is influenced by motivation and attitudes, by prior experience, by culture and background, and – especially in museums – by design and presentation and the physical setting. [7] Museum educators must be aware that individuals and groups learn in different ways.  Thus, it is important for a dynamic approach that will cater not to certain individuals but majority of the visitors.

Each museum must develop its own philosophic commitment, its own pattern of effective education in a specific community.[8] Therefore museums communicate by means of its capabilities to foster effective communication and information needed by individuals or groups.  This is accomplished by giving emphasis to the way each exhibit is effectively arranged to suit the needs of every visitor.

The next part seeks to describe the way museums connect to other people. In this process, the paper will look into the way a museums can create memories based from experiences. The idea of creating experiences in a museum can vary based on the perspectives that a visitor might use. Museums can use different strategies to catch the attention of visitors and create memories of the certain exhibit or object displayed.

However, it must be pointed out that these situations vary since people regard an exhibit or display’s significance because of previous experience. Thus, the capability of a museum educator to create new ideas and schemes to attract, connect and impart knowledge among individuals and groups.

Story-telling in galleries using paintings, drama using characters related to the collections, artmaking and scientific experimental workshops, writing poetry as a response to objects and reviewing classification systems, developing fashion shows based on costume collections, measuring and recording buildings inside and outside, mapping sites and grounds, talking and listening to museum staff, visiting the museum stores or laboratories – there is much good practice to draw upon.[9] Other ideas and strategies might be explored in creating memories for visitors.

Other museum educators say they seek to promote conversations with visitors, share understanding through personal interactions, promote fun and playful activity rather than a catalogue of facts, help visitors become responsible for their own learning and stimulate creativity and opportunities to learn through play.[10]

The last part of the paper seeks to view the way museums take part in the learning process of individuals or group.  In determining this, one must first look into the way an object in a museum impart knowledge to the visitor thus facilitating the creation of learning.

Objects can be particularly stimulating in relation to learning processes when handled and studied closely.[11] Another thing that a museum educator can do is to facilitate learning by means of letting the object be interpreted by the visitor itself. One important role of the education staff within the museum is to help visitors feel empowered to see and choose, to relate the works of art to their own search for meaning.

[12] Thus it is important for the museum educator to arrange the objects in such a way that it will be conducive to learning and at the same time letting the visitor experience the object independently. Educational experience should experiences stimulate curiosity and imagination, while allowing the sheer pleasure and delight in looking.[13] In addition, the museum must be an environment conducive for learning.

In order to facilitate learning, not only do the distracting characteristics of unfamiliar settings need to be overcome (both by making the environment friendly and inviting and by recognizing that visitors need time to orient themselves and need as much assistance as possible in doing so), but exhibitions also need to provide intellectual and cultural “hooks” that permit visitors to connect with the exhibitions.[14]

To conclude, the paper highlighted the way museums interact with individuals and groups to facilitate learning and on the other hand create experiences to visitors. The paper also elaborated on the methods and strategies museums use to attract attention among visitors.  The ability of a museum as an institution to create avenue’s for learning among individuals and groups remain to be seen.  However, the amount of experience that a person absorbs still remains to be subjective. It is still left to the individual to create a holistic understanding and experience in a museum visit.

Bibliography

Falk, J.H. and L.D. Dierking. The Museum Experience. (Washington, D.C.:.Whalesback

Books. 1992)

Hein, George. Learning in the Museum (Museum Meanings). (New York: Routledge. 2001)

Hooper-Greenhill, E. The Educational Role of the Museum, edited by E. Hooper-Greenhill,

London: Routledge, 1994.

Walsh-Piper, Kathleen. “Museum Education and Aesthetic Experience”. [online journal]

Journal of Aesthetic Experience, vol. 28 no. 3 (Autumn 1994) accessed September 29,

2007; available from http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0021-

8510%28199423%2928%3A3%3C105%3AMEATAE%3E2.0.CO%3B2-T

Wittman, Otto. The Museum and its Role in Art Eucation. [online journal] Art Education,

vol.19 no.2 (Feb. 1996) accessed September 29, 2007; available from http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0004-3125%28196602%2919%3A2%3C3%3ATMAIRI%3E2.0.CO%3B2-E

Zeller, Terry. Museum Education and School Art: Different Ends and Different Means.

[online journal] Art Education, vol. 38 no. 3 (May 1985) accessed September 29,

2007; available from http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0004-3125%28198505%2938%3A3%3C6%3AMEASAD%3E2.0.CO%3B2-U

[1] Falk, J.H. and L.D. Dierking. The Museum Experience. (Washington, D.C.:.Whalesback  Books. 1992) p. 2

[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid p. 3
[4] Ibid.
[5] Ibid. p.7
[6] Walsh-Piper, Kathleen. “Museum Education and Aesthetic Experience”. [online journal]  Journal of Aesthetic Experience, vol. 28 no. 3 (Autumn 1994) p.109
[7] Hooper-Greenhill, E. The Educational Role of the Museum, edited by E. Hooper-Greenhill,  London: Routledge, 1994.) p.21
[8] Wittman, Otto. The Museum and its Role in Art Eucation. [online journal] Art Education, vol.19 no.2 (Feb. 1996) p. 6
[9] Hooper-Greenhill, E. The Educational Role of the Museum, edited by E. Hooper-Greenhill,  London: Routledge, 1994 p. 21
[10] Zeller, Terry. Museum Education and School Art: Different Ends and Different Means. [online journal] Art Education, vol. 38 no. 3 (May 1985) p. 8
[11] Hooper-Greenhill, E. The Educational Role of the Museum, edited by E. Hooper-Greenhill,  London: Routledge, 1994.) p.21
[12] Walsh-Piper, Kathleen. “Museum Education and Aesthetic Experience”. [online journal]  Journal of Aesthetic Experience, vol. 28 no. 3 (Autumn 1994) p. 109
[13] Ibid. p. 109
[14] Hein, George Learning in the Museum. New York: Routledge 2001 p.152

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