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February 11, 2009

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Margie Maynard

Thanks for the article about visitor's responses to guided tours. I'd like to know how "guided tour" was defined in this case, and if there are any studies or plans to study other kinds of guided experiences that may not include a formal tour? I am thinking about museum staff or volunteers that are posted in the galleries to answer questions, assist with an interactive, direct visitors to additional resources, or engage them in casual conversation about the exhibitions or a particular object.

Also in this study was there any differentiation between guided tours by staff vs. volunteers?

Thanks again,
Margie Maynard
Experience Music Project|Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame

Susie Wilkening, Reach Advisors

Hi Margie -

Good questions. The survey question asked respondents how they preferred to experience museums and historic sites. There were several possible choices, including: guided tours; talking with staff; on our own; audio tours; hands-on activities; classes; programs/events; videos and electronic media. These choices do distinguish casual questions and interactions one might have on the floor of a museum (talking with staff) from a more formal tour (guided tour). And from the follow-up questions on why the respondents did or did not enjoy guided tours, it is clear from the written-in responses that the vast majority of respondents understood "guided tours" to mean a formal tour experience.

Now, your second question. Nope. Very few respondents differentiated between staff and volunteers at all. In short, the person they interact with represents the museum. Period. Whether they are paid or not is largely irrelevent. Which means that when placing volunteers in positions, just like with paid staff, it is really important to focus on attitude, not aptitude. If a volunteer does nto have the right attitude to interact with the public, consider another assignment for that volunteer. Preferably one in the offices or assisting with collections!

Thanks for the questions!

Susie

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On a personal note, I enjoy it more if there's a tour guide, guiding our group...

Mark E. Dixon

"Touching, or otherwise getting closer to, original artifacts."

It seems to me that most visitors might be satisfied by being able to handle reproductions of artifacts rather than the originals. Visiting Sturbridge Village about 10 years ago, my young daughters were given period dresses to put on over their shorts and T-shirts. The dresses fastened up the back with velcro strips and -- presto! -- two 1850s young ladies. I've also seen children allowed to put on reproduction Civil War military gear. Kids don't know the difference.

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