Leading Museums, Museum Leaders

Museum Wayfinding

Australian Museum. Photo: Meredith Foley.

Karen Hughes, Museum and gallery wayfinding: tips for signage, maps and apps, The Guardian, 25 August 2015

Wayfinding is something that’s often taken for granted. At its best, you barely notice it, but at its worst, it becomes frustratingly obvious. This is especially true for museums and galleries, where visitor experience and visitor satisfaction ratings are often directly affected by the ability to navigate successfully around the space. For some, part of the appeal of visiting a gallery is in getting lost among the art and ephemera, but for others it can be intimidating and confusing.

On a recent trip to the Louvre in Paris, France, my initial enthusiasm quickly turned to tension as I joined thousands of tourists being herded through this vast gallery. I shamefully skipped masterpiece after masterpiece, following a somewhat clumsy signage system that directed me almost straight to the Mona Lisa. I was stressed and exhausted by the time I left. I exited with a feeling of missed opportunity – not just on a personal level, but knowing that from a creative perspective there were so many ways in which the gallery could have employed effective wayfinding to better engage visitors.

I’ve worked with a number of galleries and institutions to help them navigate the trials and tribulations of wayfinding. It can be an intricate challenge. Lots of galleries and museums are housed in historic buildings, which have been extended and adapted over the years, making them extremely complex spaces. Add to that limited budgets and countless rules and regulations, and it’s no wonder that wayfinding is notoriously difficult to get right.

So with all these added complications, how can cultural attractions create more engaging orientation systems?

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Council of Australasian Museum Directors, c/o Ms Daryl Karp, Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House PO Box 3934 Manuka, Australian Capital Territory 2603 Australia, © CAMD 2021
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