From the Visitor’s Perspective

While I have to confess that I don’t read a whole lot of blogs, I always appreciate Linda Norris‘ perspective and insights when I read her blog, The Uncataloged Museum. She never assumes that because a museum is big, it is good, or the converse.

A few weeks ago Linda posted about five things she observed at the Getty Museum that any museum – regardless of size – could do to make itself more user-friendly.

My favorite observation was: “It feels like every day, someone thinks about how the museum looks to the visitor.”

I find that this is one of the hardest things to do when you’re involved with the details of conducting tours and designing new exhibits. But if you can cultivate this habit, what a difference it makes!

One board member I knew was always willing to think about and address these details. She found a bigger coat rack when she noticed that our little coat tree was overloaded. When she saw that an exhibit element was out of place, she brought in a power strip to bring everything closer to an electrical outlet.

By taking the visitor’s perspective, she made the museum more inviting and comfortable. Observing her led me to cultivate the habit of thinking about the museum from the visitor’s point-of-view.

How do you remind yourself to look at your museum with fresh eyes?

3 Responses to “From the Visitor’s Perspective”

  1. February 15, 2012 at 5:33 pm, Mary Warner said:

    I use two methods for taking a visitor’s perspective. Whenever I come back from an extended vacation (a week or so), I feel like a visitor and everything at the museum seems new. The other way I shift into visitor perspective is to mentally put myself into a purposeful observer role and I look carefully at things I’ve bypassed time and again with nary a glance. Really, it’s just about paying attention, which doesn’t happen often enough on a day to day basis.


  2. February 15, 2012 at 8:01 pm, Linda Norris said:

    Thanks for sharing this Stacy–and I think it’s really important to highlight great things at museums, no matter what the size, so small organizations can think about how to model/adapt/scale to the appropriate place for them. And Mary–great idea about a post-vacation look. It is just about paying more attention!


  3. June 06, 2012 at 9:45 am, Sharon Tabor said:

    Coming from the work of corporate retail management and then as a buyer, during the years when customer service mattered, with university studies in sociology and consumer behavior, it has always been part of my nature to make decisions based on customer, and now museum visitor, reaction. I owned a Bed and Breakfast for many years, and I was constantly on the lookout for things were were moved multiple times (then obviously that is what is comfortable for them), items were consistent requests (wine glasses), and then make the changes. Small things matter and contribute to the positive reaction of the visitor.
    museum visitor.

    Take 15 minutes on a busy day to blend with your visitors and watch them.

    Observe and react. Sometimes it takes a small and minor action that requires little to no money and very little time to create a positive experience.


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