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Designing museum exhibits that facilitate visitor reflection and discussion

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Morten SKydsgaard, Hanne Moeller Andersen, Heather King

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)48-68
JournalMuseum Management and Curatorship
Issue number1
Early online date24 Jan 2016
Publication statusPublished - 24 Jan 2016


King's Authors


This paper explores how four design principles (curiosity, challenge, narratives and participation) facilitate reflection and discussion among young visitors in the issues-based exhibition Dear, Difficult Body. The investigation is based on a mixed-method approach combining questionnaire and interview data. The implementation of design principles resulted in a variety of exhibits which variously prompted reflection and discussion on the part of visitors. Exhibits with narratives, for example, here defined as both personal and expert narratives, were found to be effective in facilitating personal reflection but also prompted discussion. Participation, defined as including both physical interaction with exhibits, and dialogic interaction between visitors, facilitated the sharing of ideas and feelings between visitors. Exhibits with elements of curiosity and challenge were found to attract pupils’ attention but also worked well with other design principles to engage the pupils in sustained reflection and discussion. While other contextual factors remain significant in determining visitor responses, this paper argues that the use of design principles can help create visitor experiences that correspond to exhibition aims.

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