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Visitor meaning-making in museums for a new age

Lois Silverman 1995
by

Gill Hart

on 1 May 2011

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Transcript of Visitor meaning-making in museums for a new age

Visitor meaning making in museums for a new age visitors find personal significance in a range of patterned ways that reflect basic human needs such as the need for individualism and the need for community question: how to incorporate basic human needs into exhibition goals and organisational mission communication no longer understood as being linear - from transmitter to receiver. Now seen as process of negotiation in which information is created rather than transmitted. role of the reader and of social and
cultural norms in the shaping of meaning
Meaning and Memory: Connections to the Past memory - core mechanism of meaning making Context and Needs: the power of the present past experiences shape present meaning - memory is
reciprocal: present context and psychological and social
needs shape recall and connection to the past. humans share a basic need to share
meaning - often in the form of stories. 3 critical factors:
self identity: critical to wellbeing. personal perspective and the relationship to the collective perspective
companions: visitors are often with someone and who they are with may affect how they visit. People create content and meaning through the context of their interpersonal relationships
leisure motivations and benefits: little research has been done to examine the range of human needs satisfied by a museum visit. Can fulfil 3 experiential needs:
1/reverential: coming into contact with something higher or more sacred than would at home
2/associational: social occasion
3/educational: to learn something about the world. Subjective meaning, subjective strategies what do more subjective meaning making strategies look like?
Comms theory suggests that responses tend to be patterned and not idiosyncratic. What patterns exist? Reminiscence is a prevalent personal response Imagination is a frequent response Wonder has also been documented 4 other distinct categories are:
1/reference to specific individuals
2/reference to personal possessions
3/reference to possessions of others
4/reference to mass media content most responses cluster around 2 needs:
need for individuality and need for
community in museums, visitors can find opportunities
and meanings involving rest, contemplation,
restoration and expression of self.
Can also find opps for meaning involving
relationships, roles, connections, storytelling etc. visitor behaviours are not unique to visitor: they are basic human behaviours The meaning making paradigm: fashioning a better fit long overfocus on providing information providing historical context or focussing on the formal elements of an artwork ignores and invalidated the personal responses people bring through life experiences, memories, fantasies, imagination, opinions. Human meaning making and museum methods: the importance of relevance front end visitor studies will help but they must
also be incorporated into exhibits, programmes and
methods info should have relevance and connection to everyday life
so that visitors can make personal connections human needs and the purpose of museums: Toward a new age when asked to demonstrate the relevance of a museum we overlook some of the best evidence that we have: a range of human needs are met in the leisure experience of a visit the meaning making model
illuminates the pressing need museums have to fashion a better fit between the human needs visitors seek to fulfil through leisure activity and the purpose and role of museums in society. hindered by historical focus on exclusively educational mission, other potentialities of museums lie seriously underutilised Art Gallery of Ontario:
explore a painting in depth

Body and Soul: Contemporary Art
and Healing at DeCordova Museum and
Sculpture Park, Mass.
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