Museum Out Load!

A few months back, I participated in a discussion in which a hundred people that typically do not go to museums were asked why this is the case. The answers were put into a word cloud, which showed which words were used most frequently. Three of the most common words used to explain why they do not attend were ‘stuffy,’ ‘boring,’ and ‘quiet.’

At some point, many museums decided that they had to be like a library. This type of environment is necessary for a library because people are reading and studying. Still, this type of environment does not lend itself to achieving the results we wish to attain as museum administrators. As museums, we are attempting to create long-term relationships with visitors based on the premise that our work is meaningful to them, and they wish to support it long-term. We want to create meaningful experiences for our visitors that emote, inspire, engage, educate, expand people’s world views, and ultimately become an essential part of their identities.

I recommend creating a culture of playful energy. Your gallery culture starts with your museum leadership and trickles through all staff and volunteers. Visitors are going to follow the staff’s lead on what is acceptable behavior at your museum. In our museum, it’s common to hear impassionated speech, laughing, clapping, aww, and delight. All of our staff talks at a normal inside volume. They regularly show their passion for the artwork through their tone, inflection, and nonverbal communication.

Here are a few general guidelines for building a culture of excitement at your museum.

  1. Talk at a normal inside volume instead of a whisper.
  2. Allow applause (this is frequent among groups in our galleries)
  3. Empower groups to interact with discussion driving questions.
  4. Laugh

Article by Frank Bennett. Originally published at

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