Friday, October 26, 2007

Visitors as collaborators?

This email just in from Jay Rounds:


Just got my copy of MUSEUM REVOLUTIONS, and the first thing I read was your article. Very interesting! Great idea to ask visitors about their own concepts of learning; the results proved very useful. I'm very intrigued by your question "do museums facilitate visitor learning despite themselves?" Have you developed that thought in more detail? My own take is that things make more sense when we move away from thinking of museums and visitors as if they were collaborating on a common task, and think of them having different jobs that intersect in ways that are very important, but strictly limited.


Lovely to hear from you Jay and glad you found the article useful. Since that paper I moved my thinking ahead quite substantially when I submitted my final thesis. Copies of various chapters and a more developed paper can be found on my wiki. Chapter 7 is probably the most useful summary of my work.

I found in my second stage that visitors played three different, yet simultaneous roles – museum expert, visit manager and learner facilitator. I think that's getting close to what you're asking? I do think that the emphasis on visitors as collaborators however is worthy of some further thought – certainly in my work around the virtual world that's one of the conclusions I'm coming to. I wonder if that will then manifest itself in the physical museum sense? I alluded to this in my thesis but am currently doing further research into these ideas. We had an initial discussion about this on the fresh+new(er) blog.

I also found that exhibitions impacted on visitors' learning identities in various ways, with some becoming even more convinced about how they did not want to learn in a museum after visiting a specific exhibition.

For those of you interested, more details about Museum Revolutions can be found on the University of Leicester website.

Thanks again Jay and love your work!

1 comment:

Gillian said...

Hello Lynda and Jay,

I am fairly sure that visitors' 'learning identities' are shaped by their interest in the topic/place. When visitors are VERY interested, they adopt a more focused and possibly more structured approach. When they are less interested, the approach is more broad and distant, they are happy with an overview.

My favourite example of this was the guy in a focus group about a major institution. He identified as a visitor of the place because he had come with friends, jumped out of the car in the rain and was part of a group photo on the steps, before driving off. This experience satisfied all his interest and curiosity about the place. He could sincerely say that he had visited.

And I guess he did learn something - the building is as white as the photos show, and scale of the place is just so.

So, from his point of view he had visited and he had learnt something. He certainly felt that he learnt as much as he wanted. Perhaps he's an example of a visitor who is not exactly collaborating with the institution on a common task, and that the jobs (goals?) of the visitor and the institution intersected in VERY limited ways on this occasion.

Thanks for the discussion...