Leading Museums, Museum Leaders

The (post) digital visitor

ANMM and UNSW symposium. Photo: Maja Baska. Source: Virtual Excursions Australia.

Lynda Kelly (ANMM), The (post) digital visitor: What has (almost) twenty years of museum audience research revealed?  MW2016: Museums and the Web 2016

Abstract

Audience research has been undertaken in museums and cultural institutions since the late nineteenth century, starting what is a rich and prolific field of museum practice that, so far, has focussed heavily on program/exhibition evaluation and market research (Kelly, 2004). In 1999, I began my doctoral study asking adult museum visitors what sources they used when searching for information and where they liked to learn. Apart from books, libraries, and museums, intriguingly this thing called “the Internet” started appearing in visitors’ responses (Kelly, 2007). This then sparked my long obsession with all things digital—there was something in this, I thought… After that research, I undertook a huge number and range of studies investigating use of the Internet and digital products, as they were (and still are) becoming significant ways for museums to engage visitors both inside and outside their physical sites to enhance their learning. These have ranged from museum visitors’ online behaviours, museums and social media, students’ views about digital learning, teachers and technology, social media and museum visitors, mobile visitors, user-testing, and trend analysis (Kelly, 2013, 2014, 2015a; Kelly & Breault, 2007; Kelly & Fitzgerald, 2011; Kelly & Groundwater-Smith, 2009; Kelly & Russo, 2008, 2010; Russo et al., 2008). To celebrate and mark twenty years of Museums and the Web, this paper reanalyses this body of work in the context of 2016 and reimagines who the (post) digital museum visitor might be.

Keywords: evaluation, audience research, digital visitors

1. Introduction

The earliest museum audience research studies were conducted in the late nineteenth-century, with one of the first undertaken with museum visitors to the Liverpool Museum, United Kingdom. Pioneering audience research was undertaken by Benjamin Gilman in the early twentieth century, focussing on the physical problems experienced by visitors when looking at poorly designed exhibits that he felt were meeting an aesthetic and curatorial prerogative rather than a visitor-focussed one. Gilman’s work also formed the foundations of what was to become a rich and prolific field of museum practice that focussed mainly on program/exhibition evaluation and market research (Kelly, 2004).

In 1999, I began my doctoral study asking adult museum visitors what sources they used when searching for information and where they liked to learn. Apart from books, libraries, and museums, intriguingly this thing called “the Internet” started appearing in visitors’ responses. Since that time, I have conducted a wide range of studies investigating use of the Internet and digital products, including mobile use and engagement. The first in-depth study researching museum visitors’ online behaviours I conducted in 2007, using the set of categories developed by Forrester Research (reported in Kelly & Russo, 2008). From that time, further research projects have included:

  • Social media and museum visitors (Kelly, 2013; Kelly & Russo, 2008, 2010; Russo et al., 2008)
  • Students’ views about digital learning (Kelly & Groundwater-Smith, 2009; Kelly, 2013, 2015b)
  • Teachers and technology (Kelly, 2014; Kelly & Breault, 2007; Kelly & Fitzgerald, 2011)
  • Mobile visitors (Kelly, 2013, 2015a)
  • User-testing, trend analysis, and revisiting Forrester’s online behaviour categories, with a focus on visitors to the Australian National Maritime Museum, Sydney (Kelly, 2015a)

This paper reanalyses this body of work in the context of 2016 and reimagines the (post) digital museum visitor.

Read more

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
Disclaimer: The content of this website is provided for information purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for professional advice. No claim is made as to the accuracy or authenticity of the content of the website. The Council of Australasian Museum Directors does not accept any liability to any person for the information or advice (or the use of such information or advice) which is provided on this website. The information on our website is provided on the basis that all persons accessing the site undertake responsibility for assessing the relevance and accuracy of its content. No responsibility is taken for any information or services which may appear on any linked web sites. Hostgator.
.