The (post) digital visitor: what has (almost) 20 years of museum audience research revealed?

Lynda Kelly, Australian National Maritime Museum, Australia

Published paper: The (post) digital visitor: What has (almost) twenty years of museum audience research revealed?

Audience research has been undertaken in museums and cultural institutions since the late nineteenth century, starting what is a rich and prolific field of museum practice that, so far, has focussed heavily on program/exhibition evaluation and market research (Kelly, 2004). In 1999, I began my doctoral study asking adult museum visitors what sources they used when searching for information and where they liked to learn. Apart from books, libraries, and museums, intriguingly this thing called “the Internet” started appearing in visitors’ responses (Kelly, 2007). This then sparked my long obsession with all things digital—there was something in this, I thought…

After that research, I undertook a huge number and range of studies investigating use of the Internet and digital products, as they were (and still are) becoming significant ways for museums to engage visitors both inside and outside their physical sites to enhance their learning. These have ranged from museum visitors’ online behaviours, museums and social media, students’ views about digital learning, teachers and technology, social media and museum visitors, mobile visitors, user-testing, and trend analysis (Kelly, 2013, 2014, 2015a; Kelly & Breault, 2007; Kelly & Fitzgerald, 2011; Kelly & Groundwater-Smith, 2009; Kelly & Russo, 2008, 2010; Russo et al., 2008).

To celebrate and mark twenty years of Museums and the Web, this paper reanalyses this body of work in the context of 2016 and reimagines who the (post) digital museum visitor might be.

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Kelly, L. (2006). Museums as Sources of Information and Learning: The Decision-Making Process. Open Museum Journal, 8.
Kelly, L. (2007). Visitors and Learners: Adult Museum Visitors’ Learning Identities. PhD diss., University of Technology, Sydney.
Kelly, L. (2013). The Connected Museum in the World of Social Media. In K. Drotner and K. Schroder Museum Communication and Social Media: The connected museum (pp. 54-71). Routledge: London.
Kelly, L. (2014). Teachers Talk Technology. Unpublished report prepared for the Australian National Maritime Museum, Sydney.
Kelly, L. (2015). Museum Visitors’ Uses of Technology and their Digital Desires. Unpublished reports prepared for the Australian National Maritime Museum, Sydney.
Kelly, L., and Breault, K. (2007). What makes a good educational website? In E. Nardi (Ed.), Thinking, evaluating, rethinking: Proceedings from ICOM-CECA 2006 Conference. Rome: Universitie da tre.
Kelly, L. and Groundwater-Smith, S. (2009). Revisioning the Physical and On-line Museum: A Partnership with the Coalition of Knowledge Building Schools. Journal of Museum Education. 34(4), 55-68.
Kelly, L. and Russo, A. (2008). From Ladders of Participation to Networks of Participation: Social Media and Museum Audiences. In J. Trant and D. Bearman (Eds) Museums and the Web 2008: Selected Papers from an International Conference (pp. 83-92). Toronto: Archives and Museum Informatics.
Kelly L. and Russo, A. (2010). From Communities of Practice to Value Networks: Engaging Museums in Web 2.0. In F. Cameron and L. Kelly (Eds) Hot Topics, Public Culture, Museums. (pp. 281-298). Cambridge Scholars Publishing: London.
Li, C. (2007). Social Technographics. Mapping Participation In Activities Forms The Foundation Of A Social Strategy. Cambridge, MA: Forrester Research.
Russo, A., Watkins, J., Kelly, L. and Chan, S. (2008). Participatory Communication with Social Media. Curator, 51(1), 21-31.