When I was a little girl (probably about three), my mother took my sister and me to the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. I have two very clear memories of this museum visit. The first is trudging around with aching feet. The second is how good it felt to sit down on a bench to rest (the view of a diorama of stuffed animals from Africa was a bonus).
Benches are important.
In our recent survey of over 5000 visitors to outdoor history museums, the importance of seating was strongly conveyed through many, many written-in comments. Visitors like benches. Visitors want benches. Below are a small sample of their thoughts:
- “I also like to have places to sit and relax, so that friends and family don’t get impatient while I take my time with the exhibits.”
- “ . . . doesn’t have enough benches along the river to just sit and be.”
- “Would be nice to have some more park benches.”
- “need more resting benches for older visitors”
Benches are important for many reasons. As the first quote highlighted, they allow that visitor to take her time . . . . and a place to park her friends and family. Others want to simply relax in a place that is, to them, a place of retreat from a crazy modern world. Older visitors could use places to rest . . . but so could young moms and kids, or even young women wearing very high heels, as one of our recent commenters noted.
At our recent tour of curated brand experiences at Colonie Center Mall, Linda Norris and I noticed that the comfy armchairs had disappeared from American Eagle Outfitters. She shared with me how when she used to go shopping with her daughter, that is where she relaxed, allowing her daughter far more time to try on clothes (and probably increasing the number that ended up getting purchased). When we went to Barnes and Noble and LL Bean, however, we noticed there was quite a lot of seating. Stores are usually pretty savvy about seating - the more seating you have, the longer the visit, and the longer you visit, the more you spend. (Which makes me wonder why AEO pulled their armchairs!)
Museum visits are no different. We have all had "museum feet," as I remember my mother referring to it at the natural history museum. But we take a breather for a few minutes on a bench, and get up refreshed and ready to learn or absorb more.
After the mall tour last week, I wondered aloud to our guests what museums would look like if they, like Barnes and Noble, were filled with comfy leather armchairs. One of our guests quickly shot back "a lot more like community centers." Not at all a bad thing. Museums as places of respite, restoration, learning, and community life. And if adding seating helps create that environment, then it seems an easy decision to make.
And a final note. In our recent study of Gen Ys we asked what a perfect hang-out would have. The number one answer? Comfy seating.
We would love to hear how your museum provides generous seating opportunities - and what your visitors say about it! Share your thoughts by clicking on "comments" below!