What Do You Want?

Last month I attended a symposium for historic house museum staff and volunteers that was aimed at improving the visitor experience. The more we learn about how people feel about going to museums and historic sites, the more we know that a visit is a complicated transaction. It’s not just about what we present and how we present it (although that’s the part we tend to have the most control of, if you can call it control). During the 25-or-so years (ack!) that I’ve been working in the museum field, our understanding of the diversity of visitor needs, wants, and interests has steadily grown. Researchers have identified a range of learning styles, motivations, expectations, etc. that all play into the complex equation that is a satisfying visit.

Visitors to our sites on the Trails of History find a variety of options for learning about Pennsylvania’s heritage (which is usually at least a part of the reason for choosing us). Always looking for ways to enhance the experience of the people who come to see us, our staff periodically evaluate tours, programs, and events (both formally and informally) to make sure they are serving our audiences. And all of us are trying to keep up with social media and the rapid changes in technology to figure out how/if they make sense for history museums.

So, as a way to (I hope) get a conversation started, there’s a new poll (somewhere on the right side of your screen) asking for some basic info from you about your preferred way to tour a historic house, history museum, or historic site (please focus on history rather than other types of museums). I realize that there is often some overlap between the options listed in the poll, but it’s designed to let you choose only one. I’ll leave the poll in place for a couple of weeks. Please also feel free to submit comments (click on the number next to the word “Comment” at the top of this post).


Carrie Blough said...

I selected the self-guided option with a brochure and map. I think the main reason is that technology of any kind has very rarely been available at history museums I have visited. I would take advantage if the option were available. Additionally, I like a brochure because I like to refer back to text.

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