[Design Thesis] 1-6 Visitor Study by Denver Art Museum Interpretive Project (Part 2)

The second part of insights I got from Denver Art Museum Interpretive Project.

This thorough exploration of visitor experiences in the museum showed differences in novices and expert visitors, yet the commonality is of the same importance. The commonalities can be summarized in three categories: experience and education.


– In general, visitors are looking for appealing, soothing and pleasing experiences, which provides them a moment “for the world to go away for a while.”

– Novices enjoy visiting with companions, while expert visitors prefer individual time. For those who have companions, it’s a social experience and they value the discussion and inspiration. Expert visitors enjoy the pondering, and viewing experiences uninterrupted.

– Most visitors have emotional responses to the exhibits and these intrinsic feelings are important to both novices and experts.

– Visitors make judgments on the paintings.  Over half of novices recommend that people should be open-minded and try new things when looking at art. But ultimately, what really matters to many novices is finding a piece they like. For a few of the interviewees, knowing that a work is considered a masterpiece, or at least of high quality, is somewhat intimidating. Experts enjoy look at a wok that is interesting even if they don’t like it.

– They try to make human connections with the “human elements” in and behind a work. They think about the personality of the artists, the past generations or derive some personal meanings about the nature of being human. They build stories around characters in a work and rely no their imagination to understand a certain civilization or the historical periods. Both novices and expert visitors are interested in the intent or inspiration when artists created their works.

– Novices look for and build personal connection with exhibits; while expert visitors find personal connection enhance their understanding.

– Most visitors are protective of the experiences, and are not interested in anything that might diminish their pleasure. They know there are more to explore, and to learn, but tend to protect what they already have, such as their own judgements, or personal connection with certain artworks.



– Most visitors expect to learn something in the museum, individually or with companions, but the definition of learning is quite broad. It can mean seeing new things, acquiring new knowledge or both. Expert visitors plan their visits beforehand or utilize the information in the museum, such as information desk, bookshop, etc.

– Here are some quotes from visitors that I found rather representative.

“[learning in museum] is not information-related. It’s more the art itself. The sense of wonderment of how a person could think to create. It has something to do with creativity of people, of human beings.”

“It’s hard to look at things and not take something away.”

– As about labels, novices constantly want labels, tours, and other learning opportunities of the sort that would help them see more or give them about a “very basic idea about … what you are looking at”, but right now the design of labels are rather distracting to some people. Some expert visitors find objective labels are enough, while some would like to read more information.

– Though visitors want to learn in the museum, they also suggests “the educational opportunities should be strictly optional.”

– The viewing and learning process is an implicit esthetic experience.

“several indications show that they try to pursue something that catches their eye. In some cases, details or aspects of a work intrigue them enough to ask themselves a question.”

“I just let art hit me.”

– Often, problems or questions arise as the interviewee is perusing a work, and spark new explorations or discoveries. Many advanced amateurs(expert visitors) talk about “just looking at details”, and are pleased when they stumble upon “surprises”, “little treasures”, or something they “didn’t notice before”.

– Frequently comparisons play an important role in these explorations. Roughly half of the interviewees mention that explicit groupings of objects help them see more.

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