Museum Visitation Factors
When deciding how to spend their leisure time, museum visitors consider many factors, consciously or unconsciously, as described by John Howard Falk and Lynn Diane Dierking in their book The Museum Experience. Some of these issues are within your control, while others are not.
• Cost/Benefit Analysis. Admission to most museums is relatively affordable for most demographics. Lower income groups have less discretionary income and are less likely to visit a museum, even though the perceived benefit may exist among those groups. Unless a museum is very large and/or government funded (ie: The Smithsonian, The Cleveland Museum of Art), no admission or low admission implies a lower value experience.
• Convenience. People will ask themselves the following questions:
Is it easy to get to?
Is it in an unfamiliar or unsafe area?
Will there be traffic?
Is there adequate parking?
Is there food available on site or nearby?
What is the weather going to do?
• Social-Recreation Reasons. Visitors who best identify with this thought process will come to a museum for amusement, fun, recreation, or opportunity to socialize.
• Educational Reasons. Visitors do not generally say they visit museums “to learn.” Although learning is a primary reason to visit a museum, it is often seen more in terms of satisfying curiosity or exploring an idea/topic/theme. Within the family group, however, education is often seen as a reason to visit. One survey conducted at the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village cited the educational benefit for children as a primary reason for visiting.
• Reverential Reasons. A unique or unusual museum display or subject can be a draw for visitors. People may ask themselves, “Is this such a rare opportunity that one absolutely cannot miss the chance to see it or do it?” Reverential reasons can also be compared to a “religious experience.” From its inception, the museum has had the feeling of going to a “temple” or sacred space. Certain historic sites or artifacts themselves can create an innate desire to see them, such as the battlefield at Gettysburg, the Mona Lisa, the Sistine Chapel, King Tut, etc.
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