A survey of characteristics and patterns of behavior in visitors to a museum Web site
John Craven Chadwick, The University of New Mexico, United States
The University of New Mexico . Awarded
As the growth of the World Wide Web changes how people access information and spend their leisure time, museum professionals need to learn about their new audience coming through the electronic doors just as they attempt to learn and meet the needs of those who walk through the physical doors of the museum. This research project is a first attempt to answer questions being asked by museum professionals--who is visiting a museum Web site, why people are visiting a museum Web site, and what do the online visitors do when they come to a museum Web site. Five research questions were formulated to answer these questions. Are museum Web site visitors also museum visitors? Will the reasons for individuals visiting a museum Web site affect how they access the site? Will there be a difference between groups (museum visitors and hypermedia users) in why they access the Web site and in how they access the Web site? Does subject matter knowledge influence the way a person accesses a museum Web site? Do the characteristics of the online visitor predict their visitation paths? The survey was conducted from December 3, 1997 to February 8, 1998 at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science Web site. A total of 348 respondents completed an online survey that was an adaptation of a previously used museum visitor study to determine why people choose to spend leisure time at a museum. The study found that interest level in the topic of the Web site has an effect on the time spent visiting the Web site and the number of files accessed. Another important finding is that groups, which accounted for approximately 30% of the respondents, accessed more files than individuals in the same period of time. Some of the behaviors that take place in a museum can be observed in those accessing a museum Web site. This study suggests that people come to a museum Web site ready to learn and museums have an obligation not to squander the opportunity. Directions for future research are suggested, including a closer look at the dynamics of groups visiting a museum Web site and the impact of interest on the use of a Web site.
Chadwick, J.C. A survey of characteristics and patterns of behavior in visitors to a museum Web site. Ph.D. thesis, The University of New Mexico.
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