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Differential Concerns: Perceived Benefits and Barriers to Visitation from the Mental Models of Museum Visitors and Non-Visitors

Thesis by Garrett K. Mercier (2017)

Some people don’t like going to museums. Other people love going to museums but rarely go. Understanding what keeps these NonVisitors and Occasional Visitors from being Frequent Visitors is a complicated issue. Any single museum visit is the product of the perceived benefits of the visit outweighing the perceived barriers standing in the way of that visitation. In order to understand the perceived benefits of, and barriers to museum visitation for various museum visitor groups this study looks at how the mental models of museum held by these visitor groups differ. The mental models were elicited through three modified Twenty Statement Tests and analyzed according emergent coding. Barriers and motivations were found within the mental model of each visitor group which differentiated them from the other groups. It was found that Frequent Visitors emphasize the benefits a museum provides their community, as well as using strong spiritual language to describe musums. Occasional Visitors show a complex mental model which associates many of the same benefits to visitorship as expressed by Frequent Visitors while at the same time expressing a large variety of barriers. Social relationships in particular are complex for Occasional Visitors and are expressed as both a motivation for, and a barrier to visitation. Non-Visitors strongly associate museums with being boring and less than they wanted. A fourth visitor type emerged from the study that was unsure if they liked museums. This group strongly associates the riskof not having their needs fulfilled with need for the right group of people to be with them at museums. If museums want to create more Frequent Visitors it is important to address these perceived barriers and either creates new experiences that meet the needs of these visitors, or combat false perceptions that do not fit with their institution.

Keywords: Class of 2017, museum, museum studies, museology, research, mental models, motivations, museum visitors and non visitors


Mercier, G., & Morrissey, Kris. (2017). Differential concerns : Perceived benefits and barriers to visitation from the mental models of museum visitors and non-visitors. [University of Washington Libraries].