Date of Award

5-2008

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Legacy Department

Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management

Advisor

Backman, Kenneth

Committee Member

Powell , Robert

Committee Member

Vogel , Melissa

Abstract

Interactive exhibits in museums have become commonplace (Spock, 2004). They have been found to be effective teaching tools (Falk & Dierking, 1992), they can increase the attracting power of the exhibit (Davidson, Heald & Hein, 1991) and can help create mindfulness in visitors (Moscardo, 1996). However, interactives are considered primarily the domain of science and technology museums (Pekarik, 2004) and there is little published research regarding interactives in living history museums. To better understand the effects of interactives in a living history setting, a quasi-experiment was created to compare the outcomes of two treatments of the same interpretive presentation: an interactive treatment and a spoken treatment. The outcomes of this experiment were measured with a museum visit experience satisfaction scale adapted from Pekarik,Doering & Karns (1999), and illuminate the benefits and issues surrounding interactive interpretation.
To conceptualize the process of interaction and how it affects living history museum experience, this thesis employs Actor-Network Theory (ANT). ANT considers interaction between heterogeneous actors as the basis for the creation of experience (Latour, 2005). The process of creating this interpretive presentation, and the experience that arose from it, are analyzed as interactions of actors in an actor-network. It is concluded that museum visit experience in living history museums can be considered as an effect of the interactions between visitors, interpreters, museums objects and other non-human actors. The resulting experience is not a copy of the past but a new experience unto itself.
The adapted museum visit experience satisfaction scale emerged from the analysis with different (though robust) dimensions from the original Pekarik, et al article. This difference may have several causes, including differences in museum visit experience between museums. This indicates that scales created for use in one museum may not be transferable to another, even though both museums may house similar artifacts and address similar issues.
This modified scale was used to test the differences between experimental treatments, but it was found that the interactive treatment had no significant effect on either dimension. As this differs markedly from the existing literature, it may be the scale itself is inappropriate for use here because of significant differences in experience between museums, differences in visitor demographics and experience, and between overall visit experience and exhibit experience.

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