What I’m Looking For… (thoughts from an 11-year-old museum visitor)

Slave pen at the Freedom Center

The Ed/Interpreters Affinity Committee asked for some input from the committee on what we like when we visit museums/historic sites. I took it one step forward and asked my internal focus group, my family, to weigh in. This first entry is from my 11-year-old daughter and reflects what she looks for in a visit:


When I go to a museum or historic site, I like the tour guides that let you ask questions, or ask YOU questions. Audio tours are fun too. One thing I don’t like about them is that you don’t get to ask it questions. Questions are how you learn! Another thing I don’t like is when tour guides just rush you along, and don’t let you ask questions- because then the learning experience is ruined!

Another thing that I like is getting to experience what the museum is based on. Such as the Freedom Center in Cincinnati. That had a real slave pen that used to hold slaves in it. On the Freedom Center’s audio tour, you heard a slave talking about how bad it was to be living there. It sent shivers down my spine to imagine what it would be like to be held captive, unpaid, and treated badly. It made me wonder what was going through people’s minds when they purchased a slave.

Ryan & her sister Tyler with Thomas Jefferson and their carrots from his garden

When I went to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, I was amazed. It was so interactive and visual! The tour guide handed out little things to the kids to hold on to while she was bringing everybody around the house. She would have them give the thing (doll, fake letter, ect.) back once they had learned about it. The garden was in good shape and they even had a farmer that would help you pick carrots and stuff.

These are the thoughts of an 11-year-old girl. Museums are fun to me and I enjoy the chance getting to talk about them.


Of note: I was on-hand for both of the visits mentioned here. I remember vividly as Ryan came to me and said, “Daddy, you HAVE to sit here and listen to this!” (referring to the slave pen). I immediately thought, “THAT is an effective interactive!” And watching our guide interact with the entire group at Monticello was like watching an artist at work. The kids loved it, as did the parents.I’m sure it’s true for many of you as is it for me. I’ve learned a lot from watching how my own children experience museums, tours, exhibitions, historic sites, and the like. Ryan is much like me in that she can adapt to a variety of situations–from tours, to self-guided learning, to hands-on, etc. I think because we are so similar in the way we like to experience museums, touring with Ryan has reinforced my own feelings about good educational/interpretive practice at museums.

One Response to “What I’m Looking For… (thoughts from an 11-year-old museum visitor)”

  1. May 02, 2013 at 4:23 pm, Erik Holland said:

    Visitors rate their experience “excellent” when
    • Staff initiates interaction with visitors
    • Staff explains history and shows visitors objects
    • Visitors touch, handle or use objects
    • Visitors ask questions of staff

    In more than 6 years of visitor research at the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation, more than 90 per cent of the visitors that were surveyed that said “they had an excellent experience” made the above mentioned observations about their visit.


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