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Understanding Visitor Happiness in Museums

Thesis by Nicole Reed (2018)

As museums begin to focus on the importance of visitor happiness and well-being, a growing number of studies have been conducted on how the museum environment can impact well-being. However, there has been limited research into how visitors are experiencing happiness in these settings. The purpose of this study was to explore how and in what ways museum visitors experience momentary happiness. The study was structured as a mixed-methods descriptive survey to understand what happiness means to museum visitors, in what circumstances they experienced momentary happiness, and how they express momentary happiness in a museum environment. Interviews were completed with 180 visitors and 75 visitor observations were collected across three Seattle-area museums. It was found that all visitors in this study experienced some level of momentary happiness during their museum visit. Visitors were most likely to experience momentary happiness throughout their visit, followed by a specific exhibit or activity and they most often expressed momentary happiness through physically or verbally engaging with their surroundings. This study provides evidence of momentary happiness in museums and could inform the design of future museum programs containing happiness enhancing aspects as well as facets of visitor satisfaction.

Keywords: Class of 2018, Museum Studies, museology, Communication and the Arts, Happiness, Museums, Visitor Satisfaction


Reed, N., Luke, Jessica, Ong, Angelina M., Buckland, Helen, & Kirkland, Tabitha. (2018). Understanding Visitor Happiness in Museums, ProQuest Dissertations Publishing.