Exploring visitor perceptions: Examining what visitors to MoPOP think about pop culture
Purpose: The Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP) in Seattle, WA, changed their name from Experience Music Project in 2016. The institution has undergone several changes since its inception and has not conducted a comprehensive visitor study since 2010. As such, MoPOP partnered with the University of Washington Museology Graduate Program to conduct a large-scale visitor study to better understand who MoPOP visitors are, explore their perceptions of pop culture and MoPOP prior to their visit, and the extent to which these perceptions changed due to their museum experience.
Methods: Pre-visit interviews (n=106) were conducted upon entry to the museum and captured visitors’ prior knowledge of pop culture and their understanding of MoPOP as an institution. Post-visit interviews (n=120) were conducted as visitors departed and collected data as to whether the visitor’s experience impacted their perception of pop culture as a discipline or MoPOP as an institution. Data was collected by Museology graduate students and MoPOP volunteers during the months of January and February 2018.
Results: Responses to the pre-visit interviews show that most visitors think of pop culture as a popular genre or person that has societal impact and they generally had no preconceived notions about the museum. The post-visit interviews revealed that approximately twenty-percent of visitors experienced a shift in their perception of pop culture through developing a greater understanding of the diversity of pop culture, its impact in society, or a general increase in knowledge.
Importance: Understanding visitor needs and expectations is critical for MoPOP as they continue to reimagine themselves into a pop culture museum. These findings will help MoPOP begin to determine how they define pop culture and incorporate these perspectives into future design choices.