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Unpacking visitor engagement : examining drivers of engagement in museums

A substantial body of literature has examined supply side influences on museum visitors' consumption patterns, stressing the importance of the physical museum environment on visitors' willingness to engage and interact. Previous research in the physical context of museums is mainly focused on the labels, how many exhibits a visitor attends and for how long, but the level of actual engagement has not deservedly been studied. Also, the museum visitor experience has been argued to be influenced by not only the physical environment but also social and psychological factors and the agenda visitors bring with them . This study investigated the visitor agenda in greater detail, examining demand side influences on visitor engagement with museum exhibits, in an attempt to enhance understanding of consumer behaviour in museums from a cognitive perspective. A post-positivism perspective and a mixed-method approach were undertaken as core methodology. First, the main constructs were drawn from a review of the relevant literature on engagement, interaction with museum exhibits, consumer behaviour and further developed by means of 23 in-depth interviews, observations and photographic data with museum visitors to scrutinise how visitors behaved in practice. Second, a structural model (Partial Least Squares), including formative and reflective constructs, was subsequently tested and refined. Data was collected by means of a questionnaire survey among 535 visitors at Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery, one of the UK's most visited attractions. Engagement was found to be predicted by prior knowledge of the museum, visitors' level of cultural capital and motivation to be entertained, casting into doubt the relationship between engagement and motivation to learn in museums. The research suggests the need for museums to construct exhibits around the familiar, build connections with visitors prior to their visit through information sharing, and realise more challenging ways to engage those visitors driven by desire to learn. This study makes a contribution to heritage marketing and consumer behaviour studies with regard to exploring the concept of engagement and visitors' interaction. Future research should differentiate types of engagement with regard to museum visitors (e.g. passive/interactive).
Date January 2011
CreatorsTaheri, Babak
PublisherUniversity of Strathclyde
Source SetsEthos UK
Detected LanguageEnglish
TypeElectronic Thesis or Dissertation

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