I found the reading “First-Time and Repeat Visitors: What Makes a Satisfying Museum Experience” particularly intriguing. Specifically, it was interesting for me to read about the demographics of museum-goers. While I do think the demographics of every museum can vary drastically and the findings from this paper are not necessarily applicable to other museums, there are many similarities between the results from the paper and what I observe/experience working at the ICA. Working mainly in the Art Lab, I see how the people who are more likely to engage in participatory programs are those who come to the museum in groups. The paper suggests that both first-time and repeat visitors are less likely to come alone, which makes me wonder how museums can encourage more participation from the occasional lone visitor. Another finding from the paper that I have observed at work is the visitor distribution between women. While I do not see as drastic of a ratio (70% female 30% male) in terms of visitors like the findings of the paper, I do see a significantly higher level of women (of all ages) who choose to engage in participatory programs as opposed to men. I often wonder how much of this has to do with the entanglement of social norms and constructs and how certain activities (like doing arts and crafts) may be deemed more ‘feminine’. I do not think this is necessarily a museum issue, but rather a societal issue which can manifest itself in certain ways within the museum realm (such as through engagement in participatory programs). I notice the divide between men and women engaging in programming becomes more drastic as age increases. For instance, school-aged children all seem to equally enjoy activities irrespective of gender, whereas men in their 20s-40s are the most hesitant to participate (this is just purely based on observation as someone who works with up to hundreds of people in a day). I do believe that almost anyone can take something away from the planned activities, but stigmas and stereotypes may prevent certain demographics from doing so. I am curious about the ways in which museums can work to deconstruct these norms so that all visitors can have the most fruitful experience possible.
“The Experience Economy” was also very fascinating to read, particularly in regards to the metaphor of a performance that is woven through the text. It is interesting to see how experiences consist of services that act as a stage, goods/objects as props, and “costumed” service people who engage the audience and “orchestrate” these experiences. This idea not only applies to museums, but to almost all services. In terms of museums, I wonder if this approach to thinking about the people behind museum experiences (curators, visitor assistants, etc) as “orchestrators” in “costumes” may be detrimental. Does this metaphor create a certain sense of distance or disconnect between museum professionals and visitors? Can thinking this way reinforce a sense of hierarchy? Additionally, I found the multi-sensory approach to crafting optimal museum experiences intriguing. A service on its own is just a service and may not be particularly memorable. What distinguishes an effective experience is the “layering of sensory phenomena” (168) which promotes engagement and memorability. The reading also delves deeper into how experiences lie on a spectrum between absorption and immersion. This is interesting to note because we often talk about “immersive” museum experiences, whereas the reading suggests that no type of experience is better or worse, but we should rather explore how aspects of each realm of experience can work to enhance what we are trying to create.