Studying Abroad: Where Museum Personalities Clash

Posted on August 2nd, 2017 by

By collections intern Amy Swartz. To read more posts from JMM interns, past and present, click here.

A few weeks ago we were tasked with reading pieces of John H Falk’s Identity and the Museum Visitor Experience. For our weekly blog post that week, I wrote a bit about my initial reactions to the piece. However, while reading parts of the book I was really struck by his museum visitor’s model as I myself have inhabited those many models at different points in my life. This past spring I studied abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark and had the amazing opportunity to visit many European countries. As someone who loves museums so much that I want to work in one for the rest of my life, all of my trips included some type of museum visit. During these museum visits, depending on which museum I visited and who I was with, my identity flipped and flopped.

Falk’s five identities are explorer, facilitator, experience seeker, professional/hobbyist, and recharger. I am most often an explorer. I go into museums seeking to discover, I pick and chose what I spend my time on, and I often have some background knowledge. When I am with my friends, who are often experience seekers but sometimes explorers, I often am in a semi-facilitator role. I want them to learn and enjoy their visit so that we can actively discuss it. However, while in Europe my identity was in flux. I found that in my experience there are two types of museum experience for those who are studying abroad and traveling: the explorer and the experience seeker.

A ship in the Viking Museum, Oslo, Norway

A ship in the Viking Museum, Oslo, Norway

The explorer traveler finds museums in new cities and decides that a museum visit would be a good way to learn about the city or country’s culture. They go simply because they think it would be a cool experience and are more likely to go to a museum that is either free or has a museum discount rather than an expensive museum. My time in Oslo fits this description. My sister and I did not know what to do in the city, especially since it was rather rainy our whole trip and the city is quite expensive. We bought a museum pass, which was a great purchase and visited the Fram Museum and the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo, among others. I approached each visit solely as an explorer. I came in without any expectations or assumptions and simply enjoyed myself and learned a lot.

One of Monet’s Water Lilies Paintings in the Musée de l’Orangerie, Paris

One of Monet’s Water Lilies Paintings in the Musée de l’Orangerie, Paris

The experience seeker finds themselves at museums while abroad for the great or well-known works housed inside. They often operate on a limited schedule and work to check certain things off their bucket list The best example of this was my time in Paris. While at the Louvre, my best friend and I saw a lot but we narrowed down our visit to the greats: the Mona Lisa (an obvious choice), the Nike of Samothrace, and the Venus de Milo. We quickly went to the Le Musée de l’Orangerie next, only glancing in some galleries in order to get to Monet’s Water Lilies.

Me and my host sisters in the Kusama exhibit at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark

Me and my host sisters in the Kusama exhibit at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark

Other museums I visited brought out both personalities. While in Denmark I visited the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art with my visiting host family. Majority of my time there I was an explorer, hungrily consuming information. The Louisiana has an amazing collection and while there I actually saw a lot of works I later learned about in my Women, Art, and Identity course. However, I was also an experience-seeker as there was a well-known exhibit by Yayoi Kusama called Gleaming Lights of the Souls. In that moment I had to see it just to see it and have that experience – it was worth a bit of a wait, which turned out to be nothing based on the wait at the Hirshhorn Museum which had hours long wait lines.

I’ve found that one’s identity at a museum is very dependent on the circumstances of the visit. That’s why it is always beneficial for a museum to cater to multiple identities – which JMM does very well through its various educational programs, exhibits, and lectures.

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Intern Weekly Response: Identity and the Museum Visitor Experience

Posted on July 20th, 2017 by

Every week we’re asking our summer interns to share some thoughts and responses to various experiences and readings. This week we asked them to read one of two chapters from John Falk’s Identiy and the Museum Visitor Experience and write a short response piece!  To read more posts from JMM interns, past and present, click here.


 

The Museum Visitor Experience Model: Conflicting Identities

By Collections Intern Amy Swartz

While visiting the Louisiana Museum of Art, I mainly was an explorer, walking through the museum at my own pace and looking at art I found particularly interesting.

While visiting the Louisiana Museum of Art, I mainly was an explorer, walking through the museum at my own pace and looking at art I found particularly interesting.

John H. Falk’s Identity and the Museum Visitor Experience’s 7th chapter explores types of museum visitors and how their identities affect their museum experience. There are five main identities related to motivation. They are: Explorer, Facilitator, Experience seeker, Professional/Hobbyist, and Recharger. Reflecting back on the reading and my own museum experiences, I have found that these identities are usually inter-changeable and dependent on the context of one’s visit. I usually fall into the category of explorer, or someone who goes to a museum open to wandering and looking through the exhibit in their own way at their own pace. Every museum I visit, whether it is one I have been to before or not, I inhabit that character.

While at the Louvre, I was an experience-seeker who sought out famous art, such as the Nike of Samothrace.

While at the Louvre, I was an experience-seeker who sought out famous art, such as the Nike of Samothrace.

However, while I studied abroad, museums were one of the go-to places to visit in each city. Due to time constraints and the likelihood that I would not be visiting again very soon, I fell into the Experience-seeker identity. I sought out the “best” or most well-known parts of museums to not only see them but to check them off my bucket list. In particular, my visit to the Louvre was motivated by this identity. Although I could spend days looking through the Louvre, my friend and I could only spend a certain amount of time in the massive museum so we headed towards some of the “greats” including the Venus de Milo, the Mona Lisa, and my favorite, the Nike of Samothrace. Sometimes I also inhabit the facilitator category when I bring my friends with me to museums more so that they could learn more about my favorite subject rather than for me. Ultimately, I found these motivational identities to dependent on multiple factors.


 

Using the Museum Visitor Experience Model as a Visitor

By Exhibitions Intern Tirza Ochrach-Konradi

This chapter introduces us to the five types of museum visitors: explorers, facilitators, experience seekers, professionals, and rechargers. These categories are useful both in the way they are intended to be used, as metrics for museum staff to better understand their patrons, but are also a great tool for museum goers to better plan to meet their own needs. For example, if someone realizes that they primarily go to museums to recharge, it would beneficial for them to inquire by phone which hours the museum is free of school groups or has the lowest attendance. This will help them pinpoint the time where they can best enjoy the museum the way they would like to without being interrupted.

Infographic detailing the five types of visitors. From The Incluseum blog.

Infographic detailing the five types of visitors. From The Incluseum blog.

For myself, I am generally a member of the most common category, the explorers. In the future, if I want to maximize my personal enjoyment of a museum it would be smart if I did some planning before I went. As an explorer, I am most going to enjoy seeing exhibits on a topic of which I already have prior knowledge. Before I attend a museum it would be smart if I checked the existing exhibitions online before I visited. I will likely figure out what exhibitions I am most interested in seeing and be able to make a plan about how to do that. I can also choose to do research about an exhibition topic that I am unfamiliar with, which would make that particular exhibit more interesting for me. I would be much more likely to walk through the exhibit if I knew something about its contents than if I went to the museum with no knowledge of the topic. By doing a little extra work beforehand, my museum trip can be more fruitful. Not only is it important that museum staff consider visitor’s motives it is also empowering if visitor’s can pinpoint for themselves what kind of visitor they will be and take steps to ease their own museum experience.

The current exhibitions page on the JMM website. Are you an explorer like me? This might help you plan your visit to the museum!

The current exhibitions page on the JMM website. Are you an explorer like me? This might help you plan your visit to the museum!


 

The Five Visitors You’ll Meet in a Museum

By Education Intern Erin Penn

I really enjoyed learning about the different types of visitors that come to museums. The article explains there are five types: explorer, facilitator, experience seeker, professional/hobbyist, and recharger. As the chapter outlined the various visitors, I grew a deeper appreciation and understanding of the wide audience of this museum.

Here a camper and counselor tackle the scavenger hunt together.  The counselor served as a facilitator, ensuring the camper got the most out of the exhibit and the task.

Here a camper and counselor tackle the scavenger hunt together. The counselor served as a facilitator, ensuring the camper got the most out of the exhibit and the task.

In my job in the education department, I have to work to create activities for all kinds of visitors. The scavenger hunt for Just Married, Sara and I created, had to consider how each student was going to approach the exhibit. Now seeing several classes use the scavenger hunt, I see how some students have different ideas of a museum and how to approach a challenge. Some students were such explorers; they chose not even to complete the scavenger hunt but to play with the meeples. It was neat to connect the reading to my firsthand experience as an education intern.

While the meeple activity was not on the scavenger hunt, campers migrated over to this section because of their curiosity.

While the meeple activity was not on the scavenger hunt, campers migrated over to this section because of their curiosity.


 

What Type of Museum Visitor are you?

By Collections Intern Joelle Paull

Visitors at the JMM

Visitors at the JMM

Museums are places of learning, new experiences, and discovery. We have different reasons for visiting and all experience museums differently. In his book Identity and the Museum Visitor Experience, John Falk describes five different types of museum visitor. Take this quiz to determine which type of visitor you are.

book cover

book cover

Quiz:

1. Why do you go to museums?

A — To see everything I can and learn as much as possible.

B — To share experience/knowledge with family or friends.

C — To see famous works of art and objects or to seek out new experiences.

D — To gain knowledge and further my preexisting knowledge of the subject.

E — To relax after a long work week.

 

2. How to you go through a museum?

A — Look for things that interest me and gravitate towards those things.

B — Find things I can share with my family or friends that would interest them.

C — Try to see everything I can, scanning galleries and labels for important information.

D — To accomplish preset goals.

E — Sit down and spend my time experiencing the galleries and objects.

 

3. How do you react to a crowded museum?

A — Ignore the crowds and continue to explore.

B — Make sure everyone in my group stays together.

C — Join in on the fun! I want to be where the crowds are.

D — Come back another time when it is less crowded.

E — Retreat to the gift shop or cafe.

 

4. How do you feel after you leave the museum?

A — I have learned something new.

B — My family or friends learned something new and had a shared experience.

C — I have experienced something unique and want to pursue more experiences.

D — I want to keep learning about the subject — through books, lectures, etc.

E — Relaxed and ready to take on the week.

 

Results:

Which letter did you have more of?

A — Explore: You have no set goals when entering a museum. You want to explore and discover things that interest you. Falk makes the analogy between explores and shoppers who love to browse without a specific item in mind. You read labels and take your time in exhibits.

B — Facilitator: You are a parent, friend, school teacher etc. facilitating the museum going experience of others. You act as a sort of tour guide through the museum.

C — Experience seeker: You visit museums in search of new and exciting experiences, often choosing to focus your time and energy on the museum’s highlights rather than looking at everything. You like taking photos in museums and enjoy interactive exhibits.

D — Professional/Hobbyist: You know about the subject matter in the museum. You are focused on learning more about it or finding answers to your questions. You tend to have an idea of what you want to see before you enter the museum and know how best to get there.

E — Recharger: You seek out museums as a relaxing leisure activity. You pay attention to the design of the gallery spaces. You often will sit down and take your time in galleries. You may not always read all the labels but will spend a lot of time looking at the object on display. After visiting the galleries or as a break you may peruse the gift shop or grab a bite to eat at the museum’s cafe.


 

Putting Museum Theory Into Practice

By Education Intern Sara Philippe

Campers completing the scavenger hunt.

Campers completing the scavenger hunt.

Chapter 10 of Identity and the Museum Visitor Experience, “Making Museums Work for Visitors” describes five different kinds of museum visitors – explorers, experience seekers, facilitators, rechargers, and professionals/hobbyists. Reading this article has made me reflect on the specific needs of the people I observe visiting the JMM and to compare it to the work the museum does to attempt to meet the varying needs of all these types of visitors. Yesterday, several groups of middle/high school-aged students visited the museum and participated in the scavenger hunt Erin and I created for the Just Married! exhibit. However, two of the groups did not have the time to use the scavenger hunt, instead touring the exhibit freely, which provided me with an opportunity to think about how the work a museum does to shape the visitor’s experience can have a big impact on the level of information the visitor absorbs.

Campers exploring the exhibit without the aid of a scavenger hunt

Campers exploring the exhibit without the aid of a scavenger hunt.

While the scavenger hunt helped generate enthusiasm in regards to the exhibit and made the campers responsible for learning and reporting on new information, without the scavenger hunt, it was easy for them to miss important, interesting information. I saw how, in this way, the scavenger hunt served as a facilitator parent of sorts, guiding the students in the effort to provide them with the best experience possible. The campers, on the other hand, were experience seekers, interested in enjoying the exhibit and seeing its highlights. Because experience seekers are not detail-oriented and prone to reading every label, the scavenger hunt offered them the opportunity to be guided to some of the most fun and compelling aspects of the exhibit.


 

Childhood Experiences Turned Into Repeated Visits

By Exhibitions Intern Ryan Mercado

I credit my public education in Montgomery County, MD and its proximity to the array of museums on the National Mall as the reason for my interest in museums. Every summer I, or my family always take a trip to the National Mall to visit museums, sometimes ones that we’ve gone to many times before. This week I was assigned to read “Making Museums Work for Visitors,” in Identity and the Museum Visitor Experience. This chapter is all about why people go to Museums, what characteristics of exhibits and museum buildings make it easier for people to come, and what they get out of their visits. What really resonated with me are the reasons the article cited as to why people choose to come back to museums and exhibits which they have already seen. The answer the article gave is personal context. This personal context rings true for me. As stated in the beginning of this post, I always go to the National Mall every summer to visit museums I have seen at least 10 times before. Why? Because of personal context.

I was just like this small child, staring in wonder at the Hope Diamond while on a field trip at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.

I was just like this small child, staring in wonder at the Hope Diamond while on a field trip at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.

There are two exhibits in particular that I will probably never get tired of going to. They are the Hope Diamond Exhibit in the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, and the Peacock Room in the Freer Gallery of Japanese Art. For some reason, I always go straight to those exhibits when I enter those Museums. Sometimes if I’m in the city not on a “museum crawl”, I’ll peek in to get a look at the Peacock Room at the Freer because its right next to a metro station. Why do I love these exhibits when there are better exhibits to see? Personal context is the answer! I remember when I was in elementary school that we had a whole unit on gems. So naturally, my class took a trip to the Museum of Natural History. As we entered the gem exhibit, the first item I saw was an elegant blue gem in a diamond necklace. It was in a special glass case in its own separate room. People crowded around it just to get a glimpse of it. I pushed my way through and saw this beauty with my own eyes. It was the Hope Diamond, the most famous gem in the world. I was amazed at its beauty and history, so much so I bought a mock one from the gift shop that day. Now, because of that initial visit, I always go see the Hope Diamond whenever I go to the Natural History Museum.

The combination of blue-greens and gold made the Peacock Room stand out for me. Normally I’m used to seeing art on a canvas, not in a whole room. I still go straight to this room when at the Freer Gallery of Art.

The combination of blue-greens and gold made the Peacock Room stand out for me. Normally I’m used to seeing art on a canvas, not in a whole room. I still go straight to this room when at the Freer Gallery of Art.

The second place, the Peacock Room is located in the Freer Gallery of Art. When I was little, my family was on a museum crawl. ALL of the Museums were packed, except for the Freer, which just acquired a new exhibit, a room from a house that featured elegant Asian art. We wanted to see this new exhibit and headed on over. It is called the Peacock Room, a masterpiece by American artist James McNeil Whistler. Its green and gold designs amazed me by its attention to detail. And this is coming from someone that doesn’t really know much about art history. Like the Hope Diamond, it stuck in my head, which is why I always go see it. So in a sense, the museum visitor experience is important especially to young children, something as small as a blue gem or large as a painted room can leave someone amazed and keep them coming back. Personal experience is key!

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Response: Identity and the Museum Visitor Experience

Posted on July 27th, 2016 by

Further thoughts on last week’s Intern Readings!

Identity and the Museum Visitor Experience by John H. Falk details the five types of museum visitors, facilitators, professionals/hobbyist, rechargers, explorers and experience seekers. I thought it was interesting to try and place myself in any of these categories and see how I fit in. I came to the conclusion that I am both an explorer and a professional/hobbyist depending on my mood.

As someone who has been a part of the art community for quite some time now, I tend to gravitate towards art museums. As an explorer, if the exhibit is too linear and too controlled I tend to get bored. Sometimes I feel like I have to read everything so when there is basic summaries before entering the exhibit I tend to get more out of it since I am able to apply what I just read to what I am seeing. I think Falk is correct in saying that explorers tend to arrive with a group, but then want to go off on their own, I feel I am the exact same way.

Being by myself in a museum allows for me to take my time and really appreciate what is in front of me, which leads me into how I fit into the Professional/ Hobbyist category. If I am in “art mode” then chances are I will want to stare at a piece of art for 10 minutes. I will want to jot down notes of random thoughts that pop into my mind about personal and symbolic associations that happen because of my connection with that piece. Moreover, I will more than likely want to sketch out what it is that I am seeing to better understand the piece, and I don’t think none-artists would like to stick around for that, so sometimes it is just easier to be alone. Being in art school has taught me the importance of discourse, which is why I enjoy discussing art more so with people who understand it.

With that being said, I also love talking about it with my non-artist friends, because they see things that I would’ve never seen. They make their own connections from their own knowledge base and it is always very interesting.

With that being said, I also love talking about it with my non-artist friends, because they see things that I would’ve never seen. They make their own connections from their own knowledge base and it is always very interesting.

Falk, has a good understanding of the different kinds of visitors that go to museums, and it was very interesting read about. I always thought that there was one way to visit a museum and that was to not read the labels and to just use your own interpretation and I think that stems from my traditional art school understanding, but I now see that there are many ways to enjoy an art museum, and you don’t have to be an artist to appreciate it.

06.06.2016 Interns (17)Blog post by Education and Programs Intern Rachel Morin. To read  more posts by and about interns click HERE.

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