IPO: A new way to think about museum visitors


Sat, 11/19/2011 - 1:00am - 2:30am
Room: Vancouver


  1. Name: Andrew Pekarik, Ph.D.
    Title: Program Analyst
    Organization: Smithsonian Institution
  2. Name: Zahava Doering
    Title: Senior Social Scientist
    Organization: Smithsonian Institution
  3. Name: Barbara Mogel
    Title: Exhibit Developer/Manager
    Organization: National Museum of the American Indian
  4. Name: James Schreiber, Ph.D.
    Title: Professor of Education Research and Visiting Research Scholar
    Organization: Duquesne University and Smithsonian Institution


This workshop presents an ongoing interdisciplinary research project on a typology of museum visitor experience preferences. The typology distinguishes three major types of experience preferences -- for Ideas, for People, and for Objects. These differences affect how people distribute attention, how they behave, and how they respond. The theory includes a specific method for providing experiences that visitors will regard as superior, and thus offers practical advice for enhancing the effectiveness of displays, exhibitions, and websites.

Session Description:

The research presented in this workshop is based at the Smithsonian Institution’s Office of Policy and Analysis, which has been investigating differences in the expectations and responses of museum visitors. The typology identifies three major experience preferences– for Ideas, for People, and for Objects. Through survey research and visitor interviews the research team has developed some insight into how these preferences are applied in a museum context. The workshop will outline the IPO typology, present the latest research findings, provide practical illustrations of how to make use of it, and allow for participants to discover their own type within this system, to explore its personal implications, and to discuss with researchers the implications for their own work. Because the theory is predictive, not just descriptive, it can be used to guide content providers and designers across multiple platforms. At the end of the workshop you are likely to see both yourself and your audience in a new way.

Session Info

  • Type: Full Panel
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