Our group collected scholarship on young adult interest in museums, with particular attention paid to museum learning strategies and the experience of marginalized visitors.The two areas of research of most interest to us were inclusivity and exclusivity in the museum setting and the learning impact of museums on young adults. We also identified several gaps in museum scholarship that make our research with the Connecticut Historical society unique, mostly owing to its status as a historical society and historic house museum. The age demographic of our research will also encompass a more modern vision of young adulthood than existing research.
There were three common themes in our journal readings, the first being how various programs or exhibits had a learning impact on museum visitors. Another common theme we observed was how these institutions target and attract young people, as well as keep their attention and interest. A third recurring theme was how museums, exhibits, and staff would affect visitors’ emotional experiences in the museum. With these discoveries in mind, the goal of our research is to broaden our insight into CHS’s target populations (18 to 28 year-olds living in Hartford and surrounding areas) in order to encourage visitation and active participation. To better identify the barriers preventing young audiences from accessing CHS, we plan to analyze the principles of diversity and inclusion and how they intersect.
Discussion of Findings
We identified two dominant themes in the literature we found, as well as numerous minor themes.
The first theme we identified was Inclusivity and Exclusivity. An important concept to consider in museum visitation is social inclusion and exclusion; making sure that the museum experience is useful to people who have various forms of capital (Dawson, 2014). There are many different ideas on how to make these spaces more inclusive, but it takes a perspective of people in the community (Alexandra Olivares & Jaclyn Piatak, 2021) Barriers influence some people’s visitation with cost, distance, and level of interest being the major factors (Lade, 2010).
The second theme we identified was Learning Impact on Young Adults. New technology in exhibits can be complicated and are tough to measure the various aspects of learning impact (Panagiotis Apostolellis et al., 2018). Multisensory, technology-focused exhibits will not attract young people who are museum-averse unless they are cohesive and well-designed (Fors, 2013). Making a website interactive and engaging is also important for conveying information and making visitors want to spend more time on an institution’s website (Lin & Gregor, 2006).
Analysis of Research Gaps
Many of the journals we have focused on have explored museums as a general categor. Many of the studies did not focus on historical societies or historic house museums, both of which are of interest to CHS. Historic house museums in particular are absent from much scholarship in this area.
Many research journals are interested in exploring interactivity from members of Generation Z and Millenials, as opposed to people who belong to the community surrounding a specific museum. Generation Z is a more specific buzzword for young people which has a connotation of being technology-savvy, and describes people born between 1997 and 2012. Millennials are people who were born between 1981 and 1996, and who were the first people to grow up in the internet age. These journals also tend to focus on students, and while many of those in our age demographic are students or recent graduates, this label does not represent many people within our age range.
Many of the journal articles we read came from researchers in countries such as Sweden, China, and Spain, and as such may have different demographic breakdowns than the United States. We also found that much of the research we accessed had been conducted before the late 2010s, which could fail to account for recent changes in the internet, social media, and the Covid-19 pandemic have affected museum visitation.
The themes, findings, and conclusions can all be used to further our goal of getting more young adults in the Hartford area to not only interact with learning institutions such as CHS, but to gain value from them and retain the impacts of these experiences when they leave. This is important because these kinds of informal learning institutions can benefit visitors by being fun, relaxing, and a good learning opportunity. They provide diverse sets of information in an interesting and organized way that people might not otherwise know unless they visit these institutions. Ensuring that the community knows of and values these institutions will also prove to be integral to their survival in the future.
Read our full Literature Review here: MuseumsTeam_LitReview#1 (2).docx
Read the sources we compiled for our Literature Review here: Literature Review Works Cited