Museums and education institutions in the U.S. did a lot research on visitor studies, which provide me a solid foundation to understand visitors. One of the research I looked into is the Denver Art Museum Interpretive Project because it focused on label study. It’s a two-and-a-half-year project involving a 1000-participant survey, 16 individual interviews and four group interviews. The results are profound: they not only developed a conceptual framework to create interpretive materials (that is, labels) to different types of visitors, but also experiment with 13 different types of labels to create different experiences.
To me, the research provides in-depth insights of visitor behavior, visitor expectations and general information interaction. Here are some of the insights I gained:
1. DAM developed their research around an “expert model”: by comparing novice and expert visitors’ experience in the same museum, to identify the uniqueness of each group in behaviors, attitudes and expectations. This model created two personas in the art museum, which is also supported by John Falk’s five visitor identity: explorer, experience seeker, recharger, professional/hobbyist, and facilitator.
People come to the museum with different motivation, ability to make meaning from the exhibits and interests in the artworks. So they behave differently, if relating to my thesis topic, the information needs of different groups are different: the expert visitors might want to see different kinds of information to deepen their understanding, while novices might prefer novel experiences than informational exhibits.
One thing to keep in mind when Designing for the public institutions is that the public have various needs. What’s more important to understand is how the needs differ from each other, what’s the priority of these differences. For me, what interests me most the information needs. How to achieve personalization of information in public spaces?