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Creating Discomfort: Exploring the Use of Emotional Immersive Experiences to Address Social Issues in Museums

Thesis by Jeanmarie Hayes (2016)

This study investigated current design practices used to engage visitors in emotional immersive experiences to address social issues in museums, particularly focusing on why a program or exhibit developer might use this interpretive method, concerns and challenges that arise from these experiences, and the outcomes that these experiences are designed to achieve. Data were collected through one-on-one interviews with museum professionals from three different case study sites that utilize emotional immersive programming or exhibits. Study results suggest that emotional immersive programs allow visitors to engage with the material more deeply as well as make it more memorable and can lead to a better understanding and the fostering of empathy for others. Additionally, this study suggests that these programs can be too intense for the visitors and care should be taken when developing them. Several themes that emerged in this study could be useful for museums looking to utilize emotional immersive programs in their institutions.


Keywords: research, case study, emotions, social change, empathy, immersive, social issues


Hayes, J. G. (2016). Creating discomfort: Exploring the use of emotional immersive experiences to address social issues in museums (Order No. 10138707). Available from Dissertations & Theses @ University of Washington WCLP; ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global. (1804413912). Retrieved from