I spent the better part of today adapting my post “Riddle Me This: Why Do People Visit Museums” for Network, the e-newsletter for Museum Education Roundtable (and yes, I’m quite excited about this). In thinking about some of the main ideas behind identity-related visitor motivations to museums and in recently reading Julia Kaganskiy’s, “I Search Therefore I am: Envisioning a Search Powered Museum Experience” I’ve been toying with the concept of a website or search engine inspired by the likes of eHarmony and Match.com where the individual completes certain fields (such as mood, type of experience desired, zip code etc.) and a list of museums matching that criteria is presented with blurbs about exhibits, information about hours and directions and “don’t miss” programs. Does this already exist?
From personal experiences, it’s challenging and time consuming to stay abreast on all the museum-happenings in New York through individual websites, twitter (it does help to follow museums who are active about their programs and exhibits) and magazine/newspaper listings (I do want to mention nycgo.com as a great resource with a calendar of cultural events happening in the area). In thinking about why people visit museums, perhaps an opportunity for potential visitors to include information about those expectations before the visit i.e.: a first date, grandparents are in town, or a hankering for 18th century portraits will point these individuals in the right direction and get their experience off to a great start.
I began to think about how such a search engine might work and found connections with my musings and Julia’s article in which she draws from a number of sources to discuss the concept of customized context in a search engine format to “access additional information…that is relative to my relationship with and interest in the artwork” during a museum visit to enhance an experience.
Considering the great conversations happening at conferences and other places among museum professionals (in better serving our communities, enhancing programs, and really bringing our visitors and their experiences to the forefront of what we do and how we do it) I wonder if our visitors and potential visitors are aware of all of this buzz. Are we doing the best job we can of breaking down stereotypes, mainstreaming our thinking, and communicating our ideas to our public? Perhaps such a website, connecting museums and individuals may be a good start (Cue: Natalie Cole singing “This Will Be (An Everlasting Love)”)!