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7th January 2013 Sara Lock

Identifying different visitor types

By: Andrew McIntyre


Andrew McIntyre explores how visitors really respond to going around an art gallery or a museum. What are the fundamental drivers or motivations that bring people in? And once they are through the door, what do they do? What makes audiences come back?

Often in research we ask questions like 'why did you come?' and responses offered might be the shop, the cafe, to see an exhibition, to meet friends and so on. But why do people really come - what is it about them that makes them come here rather than anywhere else? What are the fundamental drivers that bring people to a museum or gallery? What are they hoping to get, socially, intellectually, emotionally, spiritually, from the experience? And when they are here, what do they do? How do they behave?

We've all been faced with works of art in a gallery. What do you do? Sometimes you look, sometimes you approach it, and sometimes you sit down, or read, or talk to other people.

We know all kinds of stuff about visitors, but we know very little about what visitors actually do, how long they spend, what they say, what they think, whether the interpretation that we spend years researching and producing and mounting next to the door actually gets read by anyone (the answer, by the way, is that it doesn't).

What we need to do is observe our visitors. There are all kinds of techniques for doing behavioural observation, but one thing you can easily do in the space of an hour is observe people and how they use the gallery.

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Published:2013

Smart tags: visitors research museum museums motivations galleries behaviour