1st Edition

Creating the Visitor-centered Museum

By Peter Samis, Mimi Michaelson Copyright 2016
    214 Pages
    by Routledge

    214 Pages
    by Routledge

    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.

    Preface Introduction Part 1: Moving Toward the Visitor-Centered Museum Chapter 1: Considering the Visitor Chapter 2: Contours of Change Chapter 3: Creating Change Part 2: Spaces of Engagement Chapter 6: City Museum, St. Louis, MO Chapter 7: Minnesota History Center, St. Paul, MN Chapter 8: Ruhr Museum, Essen, Germany Chapter 9: Detroit Institute of Arts Chapter 10: Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow, U.K. Chapter 11: Oakland Museum of California Chapter 12: Denver Art Museum Chapter 13: Columbus Museum of Art Chapter 14: Van Abbe Museum, Eindhoven, NL Chapter 15: Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver Part 3: Lessons Learned Chapter 16: Complexities, Outcomes and Aftermaths Chapter 17: Conclusion: Lessons Learned Notes References Index About the Authors


    Peter Samis is Associate Curator of Interpretation at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. He has a BA from Columbia University and an M.A. in art history from U.C. Berkeley. Samis served as art historian/content expert for 'American Visions,' the first CD-ROM on modern art (1993-94), and then spearheaded development of SFMOMA’s award-winning Interactive Educational Technology programs. He has served as Adjunct Professor in the international graduate program for Technology-Enhanced Communication for Cultural Heritage (TEC-CH) at Switzerland's University of Lugano and on the advisory boards of numerous museum organizations and collaborative software initiatives.

    Mimi Michaelson is an education and museum consultant. She has a doctorate in Human Development and Psychology from Harvard University, where she studied creativity, youth activism, and cognitive development. As a former Project Zero manager, she has broad research experience, including as Senior Project Manager of Harvard’s GoodWork project. She co-edited the New Directions volume, Supportive Frameworks for Youth Engagement.

    "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

    "In their excellent book, Creating the Visitor- Centered Museum, Peter Samis and Mimi Michaelson reveal how several established institutions became committed to putting people, play, and community on equal, if not superior, footing with objects, the academy, and the connoisseur. Both the transformation and the book about it are cause for celebration. You should order a copy and immediately add it to your professional bookshelf.

    The book’s chapters are short and plentifully illustrated with excellent photographs, charts, and well-chosen quotes from the various informants.Unblemished by jargon, it seamlessly blends theory and practice and reflects the authors’ several years of intensive research and reflection."

    -Leslie Bedford, Exhibition Journal