What does the transformation to a visitor-centered approach do for a museum? How are museums made relevant to a broad range of visitors of varying ages, identities, and social classes? Does appealing to a larger audience force museums to “dumb down” their work? What internal changes are required? Based on a multi-year, Kress Foundation–sponsored study of ten innovative American and European collections based museums recognized by their peers to be visitor centered, Peter Samis and Mimi Michaelson answer these key questions for the field. The book:
• describes key institutions that have opened the doors to a wider range of visitors;
• addresses the internal struggles to reorganize and democratize these institutions;
• uses case studies, interviews of key personnel, Key Takeaways, and additional resources to help museum professionals implement a visitor-centered approach in collections-based institutions.
"Creating the Visitor-Centered Museum draws together a number of international examples of successful visitor-centred museum making and explores what it is that makes them so successful. The case studies at the heart of the book provide insight into the experiences and aims of Directors, the function and purpose of multi-discipliciplinary teams, the emergence of experience designers and the changes that many curatorial and other staff feel themselves move throughas a result of what are often large-scale transformation projects. Providing a summary of some of the key issues, processes and arguments involved in so many large scale transformations in museums and galleries, the book places an emphasis on the words of those professionals involved in the projects and as such offers much needed insight into the creation of visitor-centred museums. The book is a must read for professionals involved in the remaking of museums and galleries and will provide students of museums with valuable insight into the realiies and possibilities of building truly visitor-centred museums."
— Dr Suzanne McLeod, Director and Head of School of Museum Studies, University of Leicester, UK
"The book serves to encourage or remind current art museum professionals and to instruct and inspire future generations of practitioners."
— Diane VanderBeke Mager, The Museum Scholar
"Samis and Michealson have compiled a diverse set of case studies that are instructive in their diversity and which support their intention of not having ‘best practices, rather solutions best suited for particular audiences and situations’ (46). The book is built on the premise that visitor-centered strategies are essential for the long-term sustainability of museums, but the non-prescriptive way they present creative possibilities makes this book both welcome and practical."
- Dr. Jill Baird, UBC Museum of Anthropology, Vancouver, Canada
Part One: Introduction
1. Considering the Visitor
2. Change Takes Leadership
3. Contours of Change
Part Two: Case Studies
I. Charting History
4. Denver Art Museum: Building a Sustainable Visitor-Centered Practice
II. Engaging through Audience Immersion
5. City Museum: The Power of Play
6. Ruhr Museum: Connecting Through Adaptive Reuse and Design
7. Minnesota History Center: Lessons from a Learning Team
III. Re-invigorating Traditional Museums
8. Detroit: Re-inventing a Landmark Museum with and for Visitors
9. Oakland Museum of California: Including a Diverse Public
10. Columbus Museum of Art: Museum as Community Living Room
IV. Creating Social Change
11. Kelvingrove: Museum as Cultural Commons
V. Taking a Critical Stance on Museum Practice
12. Van Abbe Museum: Radicality Meets Hospitality
13. MCA Denver: Art Experience Over Art Objects
Part Three: Conclusion: Varieties of Visitor-Centeredness and Change