Rockets. Canoes. Paintings.
Tapestries. Bonnets. Fire trucks. Clocks. We could go on and on, from the spectacular (dinosaurs!) to the mundane (light bulbs . . . really!). Children remember the most random, bizarre, and spectacular things when they visit museums. And those memories can last decades.
As we shared last week, in our most recent national study of museum-goers, we asked our adult respondents to think back to their early childhood museum memories and share them with us. We then conducted rigorous qualitative analysis of about 3500 memories that were shared. The memories were coded by museum type but also by what was remembered.
Turns out, more than anything else, the objects and artifacts that fill museum galleries and exhibit halls are what sticks with people. Memories were often extraordinarily detailed, full of feeling and magic.
- “It was the Detroit Institute of Arts. I loved the ‘Knights in Shining Armor,’ a picture of a sunset that seemed so real that looking at the sun hurt your eye”
Were there specific types of objects that turned up more often than others? Well, yes. Dinosaurs turned up so often that we coded for them specifically. And dioramas were all over the place as well. In fact, natural history museums were so sticky (in that memories from these types of museums were particularly vivid and memorable) that we’ll post about them separately.
Mummies and Egyptian artifacts were also particularly memorable:
- “My earliest remaining memory is visiting the Baltimore Museum of Art with an elementary school group. The Egyptian mummy was everyone's favorite that day. It's mouth was open and we all agreed it's tongue looked like a potato chip.”
As were suits of armor, paintings, and historic costumes. In short, any and every type of collections object can be memorable to a child.
We did want to see if interactive memories became more prominent than object memories in younger respondents than older ones, given the growth of science centers, children’s museums, and hands-on exhibitions in museums of all types. Indeed, younger respondents are more likely to have interactive memories than older respondents (as we’ll explore more in a future post), but not at the expense of objects. Our respondents in their 30s and 40s were actually more likely to remember objects in their memories than respondents in their 60s. (Our sample of respondents in their 20s was too small to analyze with confidence.)
When it comes to making a memorable impact on a kid, there are lots of ways of going about it (and we’ll cover more over the next few weeks), but our initial analysis indicates that there is nothing that will provide you with a more memorable bang for your buck than giving a child an opportunity to see something new, different, unique, or even ordinary. Because nothing turns up more in memories than the cool stuff we have in our museums.
What do you think? What do you remember from your childhood museum experiences? To share, simply click on "comments" below. (If you are reading this from your e-mail subscription to the blog, please go to http://reachadvisors.typepad.com to add a comment.)
Photo courtesy Louisiana Art & Science Museum