Museums are a place where historical, scientific, artistic, and cultural objects are placed to educate. Children are one of the main audiences for learning within museums. How do they effectively learn, engage with, and have an overall successful experience while at a museum? A main goal for the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is to create extraordinary learning experiences that have the power to transform lives. Children’s museums in general need to create a memorable experience for the children and other visitors.
While looking into findings I had gathered from a previous project at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, I found specific areas that needed to be improved to create a more successful experience, in other words, a meaningful experience. Studies have shown that there is increased retention, understanding, and transference when information is accompanied by emotional content. When emotions are involved in the learning process, there is a better overall outcome. We learn better, we are more likely to remember, and we are able to find more meaning in what we have encountered. The way meaning or significance is formed by an exhibited object in a museum is dependent on a complicated connection between the object and its physical shape and condition, its original context, its museum context, i.e. the way it is displayed and curated, as well as the museum’s architecture, and, finally, its dialogue with the museum’s visitors.
This is just one example of research that led me to my research question. How does a digital interactive play experience affect visitor engagement when integrated into a physical exhibit space in children’s museums? I will focus on four specific areas: digital and interactive play, engagement in physical museums, transmedia museum exhibits, and exhibit spaces in children’s museums. Researchers have looked at all of these areas separately, but have not combined them to work together. This is important because technology and transmedia are becoming a main part of the world and in a physical space like a museum, all of these items need to work as one to create a meaningful experience for the visitors.
The overall goal of this research is to find what affects the visitor’s experience while in a children’s museum. I will be doing a comparative study at the Indianapolis Children’s Museum. My first set of testing will be a set of interviews and questionnaires strictly about the Dinosphere exhibit that is in the museum before a new “Dinosphere: A Day in the Life” simulation is put in. I will then visit the museum at a completely different time and will do another set of interviews and questionnaires. I will be doing this set of testing while the new simulation is in the Dinosphere exhibit. Once the interviews and questionnaires are completed, I will compare the findings of the two different experiences.