The Visitor Centered Visit

This proposed presentation will focus on research that demonstrates how what the visitor experiences in today’s art museum is likely very different from what was experienced by one’s parents. Across the field, the museum visit is now being reconceived as a personally customizable experience less oriented toward the transfer of information from the curator (previously regarded as expert and educator) to the visitor figure (previously regarded as ignorant pupil), and more oriented toward meeting the particular needs and preferences of the visitor. This means not only that the visit is marked by enhanced, interactive, and “dialogic” engagement which is oftentimes made possible by technological innovation, but underpinning this push for deeper engagement is an institutional recognition of the visitor as an independent maker of meaning who uses the museum in a variety of ways to fulfill particular, individual needs and desires. Though many exhibitions are still designed by curators to lead visitors through a set of pre-determined meanings, the trend, particularly in the art museum field, is towards a visitor-centered visit. The ramifications of this trend are chiefly that the horizon of the visit now extends beyond education to cultural consumption, social interaction, and mindful contemplation. This is (in part) brought about by developments in consumerism and a marketing revolution: visitors (as consumers) and the museum (as the marketer) co-create the meaning to be experienced during the visit. The rise of crowdsourced and co-curated exhibitions will be shown to be associated with this shift in professional conception of the visitor. Visitors are no longer passive receptacles, but active, self-directed partners with the museum. Speaker(s) Session Leader : Seph Rodney, Writer and Researcher, Hyperallergic (art blog)/Independent MCN 2016 Presenting Sponsor New Orleans, LA