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March 01, 2011



Wow! I'm glad that my comment was useful and could be used to spawn some of the great ideas posed here! Thanks for sharing this information on the relationship between play and fun.

The Fast Company article also says that a meaningful experience (like learning a new skill or volunteering) helps create happiness. Perhaps, then, the ideal museum should aim to engage both old and young by incorporating exhibits involving play AND sharing uncommon ideas that might create that happiness associated with learning new skill or idea. (Is it too big a leap to think that the happiness associated with learning a new skill may also take place when one learns an interesting new fact?) If peacefulness relates to lack-of-stimulation, then museums wouldn't be fun at all for older folks- but I don't think that's the case. I wonder if when you are young, fun is what stimulates your body (physical play), and maybe when you get older, fun is what stimulates your mind? Hmmm... Thanks for the thought-fuel!

Stephanie Seacord

This conversation is terrific and has such thought-provoking ripples! To add to the mix: a destination marketing colleague I work with (Kathleen Soldati at The Music Hall in Portsmouth NH) frequently reminds us to: market the anticipation, market the experience, market the memory. Anticipate, enjoy, remember. Young or old. And I think that's why (to go back to where I started reading this blog) we all remember the dinosaurs in the museums we visited as kids.

Linda Wilson

Great thread!
I'm curious about the list of why they visited in yourt survey. You gave them these choices (and they could choose only one)
 Curiosity
 Family time
 Fun
 Learning opportunities for children
 Only visit on vacation/for something specific
 Other
What's behind your choice of these particular categories? And what showed up in the "Other" bin?

James Chung, Reach Advisors

A quick (but way off-topic) comment about your takeaway from your colleague in the destination marketing business: I can't emphasize enough how important it is for museums to know their destination marketing counterparts for a few reasons:

1) There's fertile ground for cross-pollination between museums and destination marketing organizations. Sometimes it's because there's a shared audience base, creating the potential for meaningful marketing partnerships. Sometimes it's because there's simply more focus and budget on marketing destinations than there is for many museums, which perhaps creates an opportunity to learn from the shortfalls and successes of those other efforts.

2) We see repeatedly in our work for museums, municipalities as well as destination marketing organizations that museums often get the short end of the stick when municipal/regional marketing dollars and resources open up for tourism development...even though museums are often an important piece of the local tourism brand! Worth knowing those colleagues who can make sure museums have a seat at the table when these kinds of opportunities open up!

And what might that local tourism brand involve? For some tourism brands, perhaps it might being a uniquely fun place for families or for young adults. Or for other local tourism brands, it might be a rather different brand of 'fun' for older adults...or passion...or curiosity...or rest and relaxation. (Many tourism development organizations expend a ton of effort to nail this point...and feel free to let us know if you want to swap notes on how those processes sometimes come together).

But whatever might be the local tourism brand message, museums are often a key piece that supports that local tourism brand message, and it would be a shame not to be part of that! So stay close to your buddies in that world (and have fun in the process)!

Susie Wilkening, Reach Advisors

Good question, Linda. Over the course of a number of studies, we refined these categories as best capturing the primary motivations for visiting for certain segments of visitors, namely parents of minor children.

This question was therefore primarily designed for segmenting parents, and we expected most respondents who did not have minor children in the home to choose curiosity, be less frequent, or select "other." And, indeed, that is generally what happened, with the exception of the "fun" response, which resonated with many adults under 50 without children.

The "other" bin collected a few thousand responses, but they mostly reiterated the choices above, or people said they couldn't choose just one. There were a few individuals who were very interested in the specific subject matter at a certain of museum (railroad enthusiast, for example). But nothing leaped out as another strong category.

That being said, we are testing a new segmentation scheme focusing on adults visiting museums without children. We're in early stages yet, so no concrete findings . . . yet!

Major Fun

As an older person, I find that I can derive a lot of happiness from just watching kids having fun. Especially if I am sitting down. Which leads me to this recommendation: all museums should include as part of their permanent collection a plethora of rocking chairs and other such, scattered wherever there are exhibits to contemplate and kids to watch (from a safely non-committal distance). They can be simple rocking chairs, wood, plastic, they can be elaborate rocking chairs, they can be rocking benches and perhaps some rocking horses for the active sitter.

As for kids and fun, that, in my experience, is what childhood is for. Fun is pretty much their standard unit of measurement. Fun means active involvement. Engagement. And there are lots, and lots of ways for kids to have fun, find fun. Eating, of course. Watching fun stuff happen. Playing, though, is best. Playing with stuff. Playing with each other. Playing even with us old folks on or off our rockers.

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