Congrats on finding your way here and welcome to my first ever blog!
I must admit I’m not entirely sure how this how blogging thing is supposed to work, so please bear with me as I stumble through it and figure out exactly what it is I want to say. I guess we can start with the super basic first: I’m Amanda, originally from Connecticut but I’ve just moved to Washington, DC for graduate school in Museum Studies. This past May I graduated from Tufts University in Medford, MA with a degree in Art History and I couldn’t have asked for a better experience there. It was in those classes that I began thinking about museum spaces and how we, as visitors, experience that space. I have always felt comfortable in a museum, especially art museums, and over my four years at Tufts I spent countless hours wandering the galleries of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. It brought me great comfort to see works of art I could easily identify and I would spout information about to anyone willing to listen. It was with visits with my more science-math focused friends, however, that really got me to realize my comfort in a museum wasn’t necessarily the norm. While I was willing to spend hours among artifacts of the past, some of my friends were fidgety after 30 minutes. This got me thinking about what made my experience in a museum so different from theirs.
Ironically, it was my experience abroad that really brought the visitor experience question into focus for me. I spent the spring of my Junior year at the University of Edinburgh in Edinburgh, Scotland and spent most of my free time wandering around the old city. On an almost daily basis, I walked past St. Giles’ Cathedral and was always impressed by its towering size and Gothic architecture. When I finally went in, it wasn’t like any church I had ever been in and I was instantly confused and intrigued. What should have been (at least in my mind) a very clear-cut cruciform church with a closed off area for the high altar and choir was incredibly open and missing a choir all together. Because of this open space I felt able to walk around freely, choosing to roam around the space as I chose to, all the while thinking about how this space got to be this way. When I visited St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin, Ireland, I encountered a more “traditional” church plan but felt far more closed off in the space. These two visits inspired me to write my Senior Thesis on these two churches and their histories leading up to the Protestant Reformation. Both churches underwent changes, both architecturally and decoratively, that altered the way visitors experienced the space. Through this year long project, I came to realize that it is more than just the architecture that controls how we interact with a space and what we take away from a visit.
So to make this story a little bit longer, my Senior Thesis is what really solidified my interest in visitor experience and inspired me to apply to The George Washington University’s Masters in Museum Studies Program. My goal with this blog is to discuss how different aspects of museums (all museums, not just art museums) create a lasting and educational experience. As a full disclosure, the first set of posts will be focusing on digital technologies within the museum world and grappling with the benefits and complications that come with a growing tech-oriented world because I’m currently taking a course on that subject. This class may have been the reason behind starting my blog, but that doesn’t mean I’ll stop as soon as this class is over.
Sorry, but you’re stuck with me now!