Museums and the Web 1999

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Published: March 1999.

Abstracts

A survey of characteristics and patterns of behavior in visitors to a museum Web site

John C. Chadwick , Institute for Learning Innovation, USA

http://www2.nmmnh-abq.mus.nm.us/researchresults/

Session: Evaluation

As the growth of the World Wide Web changes how people access information and spend their leisure time, museum professionals need to learn about their new audience coming through the electronic doors just as they attempt to learn and meet the needs of those who walk through the physical doors of the museum. This research project is a first attempt to answer questions being asked by museum professionals - who is visiting a museum Web site, why people are visiting a museum Web site, and what do the online visitors do when they come to a museum Web site. While some of the hypotheses were not supported by the data collected in this study, some valuable information learned that should help museum professionals better understand their online visitors. An important finding is that groups, which accounted for approximately 30% of the respondents, accessed significantly more files than individuals while there was not a significant difference in the amount of time spent visiting the Web site. This paper focuses on the differences between individuals and groups in the way they visit a Web site. Possible explanations will be explored which suggest the need for further research. Some of the behaviors that take place in a museum can be observed in those accessing a museum Web site. This study suggests that people come to a museum Web site ready to learn and museums have an obligation not to squander the opportunity. Directions for future research will be discussed, including a closer look at the dynamics of groups visiting a museum Web site. This study was conducted from December 3, 1997 to February 8, 1998 at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science Web site. A total of 348 respondents completed an online survey that was an adaptation of a previously used museum visitor study to determine why people choose to spend leisure time at a museum.