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Identity and the Museum Visitor Experience

Identity and the Museum Visitor Experience

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 "Understanding the visitor experience provides essential insights into how museums can affect people’s lives.

Personal drives, group identity, decision-making and meaning-making strategies, memory, and leisure preferences, all enter into the visitor experience, which extends far beyond the walls of the institution both in time and space.

Drawing upon a career in studying museum visitors, renowned researcher John Falk attempts to create a predictive model of visitor experience, one that can help museum professionals better meet those visitors’ needs. He identifies five key types of visitors who attend museums and then defines the internal processes that drive them there over and over again.

Through an understanding of how museums shape and reflect their personal and group identity, Falk is able to show not only how museums can increase their attendance and revenue, but also their meaningfulness to their constituents."

Quotes

  • "This (Deaf) Museum is not intended as a casual show, to be seen once and forgotten. Its pretensions are nobler; it has a humanitarian aim. By its solid and tangible evidences, making history memorable and attractive by illustration, it serves a double purpose: to dispel ignorance and prejudice regarding the deaf, and to raise the victims of this prejudice and ignorance to their true level in society."

    The British Deaf Monthly, Vol. VI (p.265) 1897. In: Deaf Museums and Archival Centres, 2006

  • "Until the fall semester of 1986, the history department at Gallaudet University had never before offered a course in the history of deaf people.

    In the 122 years, to that point, since the founding of the university, which was specifically intended for the education of deaf peoples, no one had ever taught a course about this very group of people.

    In all of those years the history department had offered courses on a wide range of topics but never deaf history. "

    ENNIS, WILLIAM T., et al. “A Conversation: Looking Back on 25 Years of A Place of Their Own.” Sign Language Studies, vol. 17, no. 1, 2016, pp. 26–41. 

  • "As recently as the 1970s, deaf history did not exist. There were available sketches of various hearing men, primarily teachers, who were credited with bringing knowledge and enlightenment to generations of deaf children, but deaf adults were absent."

    In: Preface to: "Deaf History Unvailed, Interpretations from the New Scholarship". John Vickrey van Cleve, editor
    Publisher: Gallaudet University Press, 1993

  • "The Deaf community is international. What binds Deaf people, despite their different national sign languages, is their shared visual communication, history, cultural activities, and the need for a Deaf “space” where people come together."

    from: The Cultural Model of Deafness

  • the past can hurt

    From: Walt Disney, The Lion King

  • “One story makes you weak. But as soon as we have one-hundred stories, you will be strong.”

    Chris Cleave in "Little Bee", 2008

  • "Histories have for too long emphasized the controversies over communication methods and the accomplishments of hearing people in the education of deaf students. with inadequate attention paid to those deaf individuals who created communication bridges and distinguished themselves as change agents in their respective field of endeavour."

    from: Harry G. Lang, Bonny Meath-Lang: Deaf Persons in the Arts and Sciences, 1995

  • "Inclusion is moving from “we tolerate your presence” to “we WANT you here with us”.

    Jillian Enright in The Social Model of Disability, 2021

  • “Stories of disability are largely absent from museum displays. Where they appear, they often reflect deeply entrenched, negative attitudes towards physical and mental difference. Research reveals that museums don’t simply reflect attitudes; they are active in shaping conversations about difference.

    Projects created with disabled people show that museums hold enormous potential to shape more progressive, accurate and respectful ways of understanding human diversity. Why wouldn’t we take up this opportunity? ”

    Richard Sandell, co-director, Research Centre for Museums and Galleries, University of Leicester

  • "Deaf people have always had a sense of their history as it was being passed down in stories told by generations of students walking in the hallways of their residential schools and by others who congregated in their clubs, ran associations, attended religious services, and played in sporting events.

    With these activities, the deaf community exhibited hallmarks of agency — an effort to maintain their social, cultural, and political autonomy amid intense pressure to conform as hearing, speaking people."

    BRIAN H. GREENWALD AND JOSEPH J. MURRAY, in: Sign Language Studies, Volume 17, Number 1, Fall 2016

  • "For many members of the Deaf community their shared history is both personal and social. Deaf people will have gone to the same school, in many cases boarding schools where most of their younger lives will have been spent together, and then met again at their Deaf clubs, Deaf social events, reunions and other more personal events.

    One of the first things a Deaf person will often ask on meeting, before asking your name, is what school or Deaf club you go to. Making this connection is an important part of any greeting, as it will then help an individual to understand what shared history or people in common you may have."

    from: The Cultural Model of Deafness

  • "Opening ourselves to the Deaf community, listening to and respecting them as co-creators and experts telling the stories they want told, makes our practice richer, and has ongoing positive effects for the community.

    These embryonic relationships hopefully encourage Deaf people to feel welcome in our space — it’s their space too.

    For both side, communities and museum professionals, while genuinely, openly and truly committing to working together can be time-consuming, it repays any investment many-fold."

    Corinne Ball: Expressing ourselves’: creating a Deaf exhibition", 2020

  • " Museums can increase our sense of wellbeing, help us feel proud of where we have come from, and inspire, challenge and stimulate us."

    Source: https://www.museumsassociation.org/campaigns/museums-change-lives/

  • "Deaf mute, deaf and dumb, hearing impaired – the choices are many and not without consequences. Words have many meanings, they convey attitudes and prejudices and may hurt, even when used in a well-intended context."

    Hanna Mellemsether, in:  Re-presenting Disability: Activism and Agency in the Museum, 2013

  • "Museums can increase our sense of wellbeing, help us feel proud of where we have come from, and inspire, challenge and stimulate us."

    Source: Museums Change Lives

  • "Access to and participation in culture is a basic human right. Everyone has a right to representation and agency in museums, and communities should have the power to decide how they engage."

    Source: A manifesto for museum learning and engagement

     

  • "The most significant function of museums is as centres for cultural democracy, where children and adults learn through practical experience that we all have cultural rights. Having the opportunity to create, and to give to others, may be one of our greatest sources of fulfilment. Culture is everywhere and is created by everyone."

    Source: A manifesto for museum learning and engagement

  • "Beyond works of art and objects, museums collect shared heritage, memories and living cultures as well as what we call intangible collectables."

    Source: We are Museums

  • "An important matter for any minority group is that written documents in public archives are often drawn up by the majority group and do not always reflect a minority as it sees itself. Thus, preserving sign language narration is of the utmost importance and a challenge to those working in the field of Deaf history."

    In: TIINA NAUKKARINEN, Finnish Museum of the Deaf: Presenting the Life of Carl Oscar Malm (1826–1863)

  • “If you do not know where you come from, then you don't know where you are,
    and if you don't know where you are, then you don't know where you're going.
    And if you don't know where you're going, you're probably going wrong.”

    Terry Pratchett, I Shall Wear Midnight

  • "Nina Simon has described true inclusion in a museum context as occurring when museums value the diversity in their audience, value those individuals’ potential and contributions, when they actively link those diverse people across differences, and when the organisation reaches out with generosity and curiosity at the core.

    On a practical level this sort of museum practice would see widespread inclusion of people with disabilities in the planning of museum exhibitions, on museum boards and steering committees, and working in curatorial roles."

    In: Corinne Ball: Expressing Ourselves, 2020

  • "It was only during the past decade that recognition of the importance of preserving Deaf history has emerged. In the main, Deaf heritage, culture and folklore has been passed down from generation to generation via the medium of sign language and fingerspelling. (..) It is also vital that the history of Deaf people is made available to future generations, especially Deaf schoolchildren as part of their history lessons."

    A. Murray Holmes,  in: Cruel Legacy, an introduction of Deaf people in history, by A.F. Dimmock, 1993

  • "The UN Declaration of Human Rights states that “Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community”. This is based on the principle that citizens are not just consumers of cultural capital created by others; we have agency and the right to contribute through culture to the wider good of society."

    Source: A manifesto for museum learning and engagement

  • " The museum ( the Finnish Museum of the Deaf) was founded by deaf people, and, thus, its task has been to strengthen their identity and historical communality.
    Most of our materials have a connection to the key experiences that generations of deaf people have shared. These are important in understanding the past and keeping the collective memory alive."
    In: 
    TIINA NAUKKARINEN, Finnish Museum of the Deaf: Presenting the Life of Carl Oscar Malm (1826–1863)