Are Museum Visitors Consumers of the Past?

The museum experience is rapidly changing. While you may remember a passive museum experience, where you quietly browsed the galleries while learning as much as you could from an expert, the museum of today offers an active experience that has turned visitors from passive consumers of information to active consumers of the past.

Museology is how we can study this new kind of museum. in order for museums to thrive, they need both new and repeat customers. To do this, they need to offer something new … to a new kind of “consumer”. Read on to learn three ways museum visitors are consumers of the past under new museology.

Consuming Culture

The cultural consumer puts a value on experiences that include creativity, aesthetic appeal, doing good, solving a problem and a reflection of personal values. This type of consumer may represent a small part of the overall population, but for museums, cultural consumers make up a large part of a museum’s member list. They expect an experience that is so meaningful that it will linger with them for a long time, eventually prompting them to go back for a new cultural experience.

Consuming Experiences

No two museum visits are the same, especially in this era of customized everything, and today’s consumers of the past want their needs and desires met through personalized museum visits.

According to Seph Rodney in his article “How Museum Visitors Became Consumers,” in the past, museum visitors could expect an educational experience where information was transferred from curator to visitor. Today, visitors are looking for interaction, something they can take away with them: an experience like no other.

Experiences for Economy

Providing an experience for consumers is the next great stage in business, and at the end of the day, a museum is a business. Through the concept of an experience economy, museum visitors become consumers of the past through these customized visits. Are these visits a true reflection of the histories they portray, or is there some alternate reality provided for the sake of visitor pleasure?


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