To view or not to view?

What drives visitors’ decisions about whether or not to view videos in museum settings?

Across observations in several institutions, I’ve found that the nature of the environment (most notably the presence of adequate seating) seemed to be the most important factor in visitor’s viewing decision-making process.  Never underestimate the value of a well-placed bench or a few seats in terms of its ability to increase video viewership; the more comfortable, the better!  It is also important to consider other elements in the viewing environment that may enhance or detract from the viewing experience (e.g., What other activity is taking place around the viewing environment?, Do people walk in front of the screen? Is there something for children to do while adults watch? Is there ambient noise that makes it hard to hear the video? Is the space lit well-enough to allow visitors to enter and exit safely?)

Knowing how long a video program is, when it started, and when it would start again were also important factors to visitors as they sought to determine whether or not to view a video. While visitors appreciated having access to current/recent information, the recency of information presented seemed less important than the topic of the video and whether or not the information was being presented in a way that was clear and engaging to the visitor and/or members of his/her group. This is not to say that visitors don’t find value in current information, but rather that there are other factors that seem to be even more important to the average visitor.

However, despite the fact that recency may not be the biggest draw, visitors do appreciate it when institutions present current information and it might therefore be worthwhile to find ways to help ensure visitors are aware of the recency of info being presented. Even when videos included dates, visitors weren’t always consciously aware of the fact that the information being presented was current until they were asked to reflect further on their experience (and specifically prompted for information about the recency of information presented). Don’t take it for granted that visitors will realize video program or other exhibit elements are current – extra signage or announcements that alert visitors to the fact that videos or other exhibit elements contain current info may help you get the biggest bang for your institutions’ efforts (and bucks) to be inclusive of more recent information.

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