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Alternative Voices: Exploring Museums’ Use of Technology-Based Contributory Visitor Experiences

Thesis by Rachel S. Townsend (2017)

Technology-based participatory experiences are on the rise in art museums. The purpose of this study was to explore museums’ use of technology-based, participatory experiences designed to encourage visitors to contribute interpretive content in art museum exhibitions. Using a case study design, data were collected through interviews with museum professionals at three sites and through document analysis. Study results suggest that museums were primarily motivated by a desire to enhance the visitor experience, keep up to date with technology use, try new things, and offer visitors alternative perspectives to the traditional curatorial voice. Additionally, results suggest that the implementation of these contributory experiences only minimally changed institutions’ exhibition development practice and that personnel changes heavily influenced these projects. This study’s results point to future research opportunities around what visitors get out of technology-based participatory experiences and offer practitioners examples they can use when planning similar experiences at their own institutions.

Keywords: Class of 2017, museum, museum studies, museology, Participatory experiences, visitor contribution, technology, art museums


Townsend, R., & Luke, Jessica J. (2017). Alternative voices : Exploring museums’ use of technology-based contributory visitor experiences.  [University of Washington Libraries].