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Emotionally Connecting with Museum Visitors

Museums Emotionally Connecting

Emotionally connecting with museum visitors, being a civic anchor, community gathering place, and helping to define community values. Placemaking is a combination of both the individual and community connections.  In 2015 I wrote the book Museums 101 a book of museum basics.  At the same time started teaching user-centered design in the Interactive Media Department at Ibero.  The combination of teaching and writing the book, caused me to rethink my own future.  I made a decision that museums needed to change and I wanted to be more involved in the future of museums.

“The nation’s museums face a tall and challenging order, increasingly called upon to be civic anchor, community gathering place, and stewards of our most prized artistic and cultural heritage. Museums are visited by millions of people each year — more than those that attend all major sporting events and theme parks combined.”(1)

I love this quote by the National Endowment for the Arts that includes “civic anchor, community gathering place” describing museums.  Those few words reposition museums to gathering places.  Those few words also repositioned my thinking about the future of museums to community anchors of placemaking.  This is driving my process in writing my new book Museum Customer Experience (CX): Emotionally Connecting with Museum VisitorsI think placemaking as a camera zoom lens, zoom in to a macro level to understand the emotional needs on a visitor by visitor basis and zoom out to (wide angle) understand an overall communities needs.  The process of zoom in and zoom out is a sort of an infinite loop, throughout the life of a museum.

This brings me around to my bicycle(2), yesterday I went and got my bicycle out of storage.  I cleaned the bicycle and leaned it up against the wall at the house.  Every time I walked by the bicycle I smile, I really smile, just seeing the bicycle makes me happy.  The bike is much more to me than an object, it is freedom, it is energy, it is exploration.  I love emotionally connecting my meaning of of self with my definition of the values of the object of bicycle, it feeds my soul.  The values of freedom, energy, and exploration are my values, they help to define me.  I believe we all need those connections between self and definition of our personal values, and museums serve that role.  Museums can serve the role on a individual level (macro zoom) and community level (wide angle zoom).

(1) National Endowment of the Arts
(2) Yes, I need to put the pedals back on the bike and air in the tires

About Mark Walhimer

Mark is Managing Partner of Museum Planning, LLC, a museum planning and exhibition project management firm of interactive educational environments for Science Centers, Children's Museums and Natural History Museums. You can reach Mark at mark@walhimer.com.

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