Tag Archives: visitor studies

Museums & Wellbeing

So apparently there is a Museums and Wellbeing Week.  This is quite exciting for me as my PhD has taken a wellbeing turn (see below) and now I find a week where museums are promoting wellbeing.

Museums & Wellbeing Week Information

Anyway, I have been working hard on my PhD to the point where I have put in to present at two conferences this year. One with a poster and one with a Pecha-Kucha.  To do this I had to communicate my PhD topic in a more academic fashion than my blog post about is earlier this year.  So I got my head around my literature review plan, and wrote this:

I am exploring how museums can better engage with audiences of diverse communities, such as the communities in Leicester.  Drawing on the work of Chatterjee & Noble (2013), I will be looking at how local museums can better support local communities by creating a sense of belonging.   This will include building on the museums inclusivity in relation to identity and race (Crang & Tolia-Kelly, 2010).

Initially I will be looking into the experiences of family groups from the local Leicester area in the local authority museums focusing on their emotional and sensory experiences (Roberts, 2013; Munro, 2014) to better understand the senses of well-being and belonging in the museum.   I hope that this will be a basis on which museums can better represent their local communities and contribute to wellbeing and create an inclusive museum.

This is what I have submitted to see if anyone wants to hear about my research, and it has been successful.  The poster submission deadline passed and today I found out that I shall be presenting my poster at the Museums in the Global Contemporary Conference in Leicester in April.  The other deadline is the beginning of March so I have a little wait for that one.

Chatterjee, H. and Noble, G. (2013) Museums, health and well-being Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate
Crang, M. and Tolia-Kelly, D.P. (2010) Nation, race and affect: senses and sensibilities at National Heritage sites Environment and planning A., 42 (10) 2315
Munro, E. (2014) Doing emotion work in museums: reconceptualising the role of community engagement practitioners Museums and Society March 2014 12(1) 44-60
Roberts, R.C., (2013) Questions of museum essence: Being, Being With, and finding connection in conversation Museums and Social Issues 8:1&2 pp. 89-101


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Enthusiasm about museums

After Christmas and a slow start to January, I think I am getting back into a routine with my dissertation. I have made myself try and review a journal article every weekday. On top if this I have been busy organising my museums. I think I have cracked it now! I decided I needed to actually go and speak with some people to help me get on with it, so I took a day trip to Oxford. This was the best idea ever!

Meeting my contacts at the Ashmolean and Pitt Rivers, not only helped me plan the logistics of the study, but also helped me to articulate the project and my goals. It gave me the opportunity to explain in person what I wanted to do, how I thought I was going to do it and that I wasn’t entirely sure of the exact outcomes yet, but that was part of the design. The feedback and discussion provided an opportunity to highlight some of the gaps in my plans and create a constructive platform to fix them. I found that discussing the project gave me more confidence in it. My main worry is now that the photos actually come out!

The trip to Oxford also gave me a fun day out. I spent about two hours in the Pitt Rivers Museum and four in the Ashmolean. As it was a Thursday and not a holiday, I had some of the Ashmolean galleries to myself. I went on a tour and had a chat with the museum assistants too. After a tough day (very tough on the feet anyway) I met a friend in the Bird and Baby and had a filling dinner. I am looking forward to going back for a few days and getting the interviews done.

Since I completed what could be termed as a site visit, I have had a surge in enthusiasm, ideas and focus. I now have an excellent selection of fee charging and free museums, run by local authorities, independently or nationally, and my first test subjects visitors are taking photos on Saturday. I have even got a rough plan of the structure of my dissertation. However, I am now not sure that 30,000 words is going to be enough…

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Raising funds…

Apologies for the long gap in posting.  I nearly posted while I was on holiday in New York about this, but then I remembered I was on holiday for a reason!

While we were enjoying the Big Apple over the festive season, we visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  I did my homework before we went.  I noticed that the Met has “recommended” entrance fees.  They point out that all of their exhibits are free once you are in the museum and could visitors please pay the full recommended amount in order for them to be able to provide these at no extra cost.  I thought this was an interesting viewpoint compared to some UK museums (I am being quite general here, there could be UK museums that use this approach).   The Met goes as far to recommend an amount for senior citizens, students and children, in the same way other museums would lay out their prices.    I think I like the honesty of the Met for this, it doesn’t explain every reason for a fee, but there is an explanation.  Before we went one thing did cross my mind; how many people actually paid full price or had the confidence to say no?  How would that work?

Once we were there I found out.  I also got annoyed with a UK visitor behind us in the queue (but didn’t do anything or say anything as you just don’t in these situations).  The other visitor had not done his homework and was kicking up a fuss as a tour guide had told him it would be “free like the British Museum”. There was no consideration of where the funding came from for the Met and how that may be different from the British Museum.  I was starting to get a little tired of the comments about how the British Museum could let people in for free why couldn’t the Met, when we got to the counter.  The admissions lady was welcoming and gave a full explanation of the recommended fees, but stressed that we didn’t have to pay the full amount if we didn’t want to.  It was a no pressure conversation, she double checked we were happy with the cost and when we paid the recommended price she thanked us kindly.  (Although everywhere, except the Guggenheim, thanked us kindly.)  It worked.  Not that I felt that I had to pay the recommended amount, but that I was given the option if I wanted to, to pay what I could afford, or wanted to, or get in for free if I really wanted to.  I would imagine that if I was a semi-regular visitor, I may choose to pay a lower amount or even go in free if I was working on a project using the museum as a resource.
It was busy and I missed the conversation between the visitor behind us and the admissions lady.  I would have liked to see his face as she politely explained how it worked and how he didn’t have to pay anything if he didn’t want to and hoped that he had a nice visit.

In addition to this observation I had an amazing time in the Met.  Knowing we couldn’t see it all we planned a rough route to see some of the things we prioritised and then got lost and sidetracked by rooms of armour or expressionist paintings.  There was also a good 10 minutes spent in Warhol’s Silver Clouds…and it snowed.  Perfect really.

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After October being a hectic month, November has been a little less frantic. It has been mostly waiting for results and news. During the waiting I was lucky enough to go to a lecture by Bettany Hughes on Helen of Troy.

After having watched quite a lot of her television programmes, I have to admit that I wasn’t enamoured with her presenting style on tv. However, in person, she is engaging and lively. There is an element of Horrible Histories to her style which, not only provides interesting facts, it also makes it all the more memorable.

All the news came at the same time in the end, I went to a teaching event for my MRes and was sent all the results and approvals required to get on with things. My essay result wasn’t disappointing either. I knew I wasn’t going to get another distinction this time. I struggled to engage with the subject matter (quantitative methods are not as exciting as qualitative ones) but did manage to produce a piece of work of merit standard. Reading around the subject always helps, I tried to look at it from the most interesting viewpoint possible. I also got news that my dissertation proposal had been approved.

I had a meeting with my supervisor today and now have somewhere to get started. We talked about the scope of my research and it has now grown. I initially anticipated focusing on one museum, but now I am looking at a national, local authority and privately run museums. My first challenge is to find a national museum and privately run museum who will allow me to give family groups cameras during their visit. Then I need to think about logistics of carrying this out, but I think I might be able to manage it. I do have a year to do this. These are relatively minor issues compared to the seemingly mammoth task of the literature review.

The literature review was a common theme at the teaching event. It seems to be the thing that people panic about. We discussed how you write it and by the end of your research you have to re-write it. During my meeting today, we talked about approach and that detailed notes and plans will be enough until it is time to write it up. This is going to reduce the amount of re-writing later, but I think it could be more work in the meantime. I need to know everything about my subject matter. I am looking forward to this!

I now have a plan again, and a rough schedule. Time to get back to the studying!

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Moving Forward

Last week I met with my course director/potential dissertation supervisor.  I chose to meet now, early on before even having completed my last module so that I could vent some ideas and make sure I wasn’t on the wrong track even before I had started.  The proposal isn’t due in until October, but we have had an extra week before getting our next module so I took advantage of this opportunity.

My original plan was to explore the visitor experience in one of our local museums using disposable cameras and then follow up interviews.  I have to admit that the idea was a little broad when I went in.  We discussed the topic and came to a few more firm decisions.

I will look at focusing on the family experience within the museum.  This can be used to show the following topics amongst others:

  • decision making within family groups
  • pathways through the museum and why that particular path is being taken
  • learning methods and the use of prior knowledge within family groups

I hope that this will also highlight any differences between the curator’s objectives and the actual visitor experience as well.  This proposal is in the early stages, I am fully expecting some changes to come out during the development stages.  I will keep you all posted on any changes.

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The story so far…

June 2012

I originally came up with the broad plan for my dissertation while reading this article:
Clark-Ibáñez, M. (2004) ‘Framing the Social World with Photo-elicitation Interviews’, American Behavioral Scientist 47(12): 1507-1527

The author’s description of using photographs taken by the respondent and then discussing the feelings, reasons and meanings behind the photograph struck me as an interesting method of research and one which could be used to study visitor experiences at museums.  I have also previously heard of some research which was conducted by giving children cameras and recording their viewpoint of museum visits. http://www2.le.ac.uk/research/festival/meet/humanities/kirk/poster.pdf

I will need to mention this to the course director as I am hoping it will not influence the research I hope to do.  I am going to try and use different methods to do this and the project will not take as long.  

I have been reading about Grounded Theory as a way of developing the project.  At the moment I am not sure on what the exact questions will be so using the photographs in the first instance and then developing the research questions from this point would be ideal.

I emailed the museum today (15th June) to see if they would be open to me conducting my research at the New Walk Museum.  I will have to wait and see what the answer is…

20th June 2012

I went to Prof Sarah Pink’s seminar on Visual Methods for Organisational Studies today.   The talk gave me some more ideas about how I could make my dissertation more dynamic.  She spoke about movement and using video to get a better experience of the participant’s point of view or help the researcher have the same or similar experience.   I think there may be some possibility to working this kind of method into my dissertation.  It will need some thinking about as I have never used a video camera and would need to get some practice.  Or indeed, think about how I could get the best use out of it.

 The thoughts on filming someone’s visit through the museum made me think about how the different people in the museum use the space.   Museum workers might see things differently to visitors.  It might be worth filming museum workers moving about the museum during their day or a few hours, and comparing it to the visitors view.  It might also be worth getting museum workers to take photos of things around the museum in the same way as the visitor will.  This could then be compared. 

26th June 2012

I received this reply from the museum his morning:


I am sorry for not responding earlier. In principle I would be happy with this, however there may be some issues with photographs in all galleries as we have copyright issues with some of the objects. Please can you let me have a detailed proposal with potential dates?

I think it sounds like a good way to research customer experiences and would be really interested in the results.

If you wish to discuss further please give me a call.


This is brilliant news.  As I develop this proposal I can take this into account.  I might go and visit and have a chat about it as it might be easier to speak to them directly and see how I might have to change my proposal in relation to any copyright issues they may have.    As I am not intending to publish all of the photos, it may be a case of restricting the photographs of the copyrighted objects and not being able to give them to the participants.   

27th June 2012

I have been thinking a little further on the copyright issue.  I am wondering if I could get permission to publish the photographs.  I will have to look into this further…I work in the law school so there should be someone here that can help me on copyright issues too.  

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