Leading Museums, Museum Leaders

Evolution of Museum Visit

The museum visitor’s experience is now being personalized.

Seph Rodney, The Evolution of the Museum Visit, from Privilege to Personalized Experience, Hyperallergic, 22 January 2016

What you experience when you visit an art museum these days is likely very different from what your parents did when they were your age. In plain terms, across the field, in museums, art institutions, performance forums, and even historical societies, the visitor’s experience is now being personalized. This means that not only is the visit marked by enhanced, interactive, and “dialogic” engagement, but also there is an institutional recognition of the visitor as an independent maker of meaning who uses the museum in a variety of ways to fulfil particular, individual needs and desires.

Museums and the visitor’s experience in them have always been shaped by the particular historical context that inflects institutional focus, professional practice, and visitor expectations and behavior. A medieval pilgrim would likely have visited a Christian cathedral, looking at the art contained in order to “read” the biblical story lain out in that dramatically ecclesiastical setting in the statuary or stained glass vignettes and thus have a religious experience — perhaps staggered by the idea of the power of the soul.

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