What You Want

If you want an extra hour of sleep this Sunday, be sure to set your clock back Saturday night, as Daylight Savings Time comes to an end.

Several weeks ago, I wrote a post about tours at historic sites and put up a poll asking you to vote on your preferred way to visit a historic house or historic site. The poll gave you one choice from among “guided tour,” “self-guided tour with brochure,” “self-guided audio tour,” or “other.” Granted, at many historic sites on the Trails of History and elsewhere, it’s not an either/or situation—often, a guided tour is required for some parts of the site and you’re self-guided for other parts. But for simplicity, I limited your choices. The poll is now closed, but I’ve left it up so you can see the results (to the right of your screen).

PHMC/Anthracite Heritage Museum

Well, “voter turnout” wasn’t high—43 votes in 2 weeks—so I’m leery of any percentages here. We can say that the people who responded to the poll were pretty evenly split between guided tours and self-guided with brochure, with far fewer votes for audio tours. (One respondent commented that she didn’t pick audio tours because she hasn’t experienced them at historic sites.)

There’s some data out there (not to mention a fair amount of anecdotal evidence) that suggests these responses (which I have to emphasize are VERY non-scientific) don’t reflect how general museum goers feel. That is, it appears that more visitors want to explore on their own and ditch the guided tour if they have a choice. They still seem to want options for getting more information, however, including brochures, audio tours, and interaction with knowledgeable staff.

PHMC/Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania

So, why the discrepancy in these responses? Hard to say, but I suspect that many Trailheads readers are hard-core history museum visitors. Personally, I still love a good guided tour, although I’m coming around to the idea of a good audio tour. I’ve experienced some high-quality audio, including the recent cell phone tours coming on line at Trails of History sites. The important thing, in my opinion, is that we be open to what our visitors want, work with the resources we have available, and continue to provide security and care for the historic buildings and collections we hold for the public. I’d be happy to hear some comments from readers about your further thoughts on this.


Anonymous said...

A good guide can make or break a museum experience. Perhaps many people have not had enough good guides?

The other thing that factors in is the emotional/physical state of the visitor. I was at a historic site and just as we arrived, a guided tour was announced. But I was so exhausted from an 8 hour drive that I opted for the "explore on my own" option.

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