Between the Lines of Engagement in Museums: Indiana University and the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis

May 1st, 2008 | RESEARCH

The concept of engagement across the learning sciences and in museums draws from research on visitor interests, motivations, and behaviors. Such involvement by museum visitors reveals institutional and field expectations about museum efficacy and demonstrated impact. However, engagement is a concept with different uses and interpretations across institutions and fields. If we are going to talk about visitor engagement in museums specifically, it is incumbent on museum educators to understand and address the values that are associated with this idea. What does engagement look like and sound like in a museum's exhibitions, programs, and visitor studies? In this paper we present critical questions to frame a discussion on the assumptions, values and cautions that come with the concept of engagement in a museum setting. We present practical examples from research in a children's museum and discuss the implications of using engagement concepts in museum work. We argue that the ways in which museum staff observe and measure visitor behaviors are guided by assumptions and values, institutional goals and values, and the visitor's assumptions and values. Understanding learning sciences research can aid in the articulation of what visitor engagement looks like for an institution.


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Team Members

Indiana University, Contributor
Children's Museum of Indianapolis, Contributor
Elizabeth Wood, Author
Barbara Wolf, Author


Publication: Journal of Museum Education
Volume: 33
Number: 2
Page(s): 121

Related URLs


Audience: Evaluators | General Public | Museum | ISE Professionals
Discipline: Education and learning science | General STEM
Resource Type: Peer-reviewed article | Research Products
Environment Type: Exhibitions | Museum and Science Center Exhibits | Museum and Science Center Programs | Public Programs