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  #1  
Old 09 November 2007, 03:37 PM
qualli qualli is offline
 
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Default Museum goers never read labels

I am in a museum studies class, and I just heard this interesting legend while learning about the importance of labels.

As an experiment the Smithsonian put up a nice large sign with about a printed page worth of text explaining a particualr gallery. Right in the middle was the words "If you've read this far come to the gift shop to claim your reward". The reward (some say $100) has been left unclaimed to this day.
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  #2  
Old 09 November 2007, 03:47 PM
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I read about half of the descriptions in museums. If I start reading a particular description and it doesn't seem interesting, though, then I'll stop.

Regarding this story, I don't think it's really plausible. Why would a museum use this particular method to test the attention of people? Is it a contest to encourage people to read the signs? Aren't they working under the assumption that people who visit the museum are genuinely interested in the exhibits?
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Old 09 November 2007, 03:49 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rocketship View Post
I read about half of the descriptions in museums. If I start reading a particular description and it doesn't seem interesting, though, then I'll stop.

Regarding this story, I don't think it's really plausible. Why would a museum use this particular method to test the attention of people? Is it a contest to encourage people to read the signs? Aren't they working under the assumption that people who visit the museum are genuinely interested in the exhibits?
And why would they reward the few patrons that read a sign which obviously isn't serving it's purpose?
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Old 09 November 2007, 03:51 PM
qualli qualli is offline
 
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It's a given fact within the field that someone will only spend 30 seconds looking at an artifact and reading the text. Which is why new interactive ways of delivering the information are becoming popular.

I think it's stupid. If you assume people aren't reading the texts then you'll start writing like the text doesn't matter. I nearly banged my head against the wall when a currator told me proudly that in two years they hoped to get rid of 90% of the text.

I'm also not very impressed with the "layers of info" such a audio tours and palm devices. Just put up a frickin sign.
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  #5  
Old 09 November 2007, 03:54 PM
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Ali Infree Ali Infree is offline
 
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Signage is a funny thing, poorly placed, it can blend in with the decor. I wonder if the issue might be the length of the particular description. OTOH, it does sound like a legend, doesn't it?

Or the description could be near something that doesn't require a lot of verbage. I seem to recall at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, the dinosaurs largely speak for themselves, well, you know what I mean.


Ali "raptors r us" Infree
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  #6  
Old 09 November 2007, 04:02 PM
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It would help if they didn't make the signs thiiis small so you don't have to push other patrons to get to the sign.
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  #7  
Old 09 November 2007, 04:38 PM
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I just spent two hours this morning at museums, both the natural history and the art museum.

I read the labels of anything that interests me. Sometimes I scan them just to glean the info I'm looking for (dates, names, etc.) In art museums I appreciate having text that describes the purpose, history, or inspiration for the artwork. It helps me understand where the artist was coming from and why they expressed themselves that way.

It sometimes annoys me to be in any museum or zoo where people just rush through, take a glimpse, and move on to the next exhibit. I'm the only person I've observed who actually stands there and studies things. Although I guess art patrons are fickle; if I really am not connecting with something I'll move on to the next thing that catches my eye. But I notice it a lot more in zoos: "Look, Billy, a tiger! See? Ooh, what's over there? An elephant! Isn't he big? All right, what's next...the monkeys! Look at them!"

You know, maybe your kid might grow up to appreciate animals more if you let him sit there and watch them, study how they move and behave, note the exhibit design and why it's constucted that way, and read about their natural history, not rush through the zoo like it's a race or something. Animals are works of art, and even when they're sleeping ("this is boring, they're not doing anything") you can study the lines and contours of their bodies, their coat patterns, the rhythm of their breathing, their smells, etc. But I'm the only person I know who does that. I can spend 15-20 minutes at one exhibit; a trip to the zoo is an all day event for me.
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  #8  
Old 09 November 2007, 05:05 PM
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I read labels, but mostly of objects that interest me (or if I am not sure of what it is, its date, etc). If I take a photograph of something I often take a photo of the label as well to remind me of what the object is.
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Old 09 November 2007, 05:09 PM
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Does anyone else find museums and art galleries often make them cry (please please please let this not just be me)?
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  #10  
Old 09 November 2007, 05:30 PM
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I don't cry but I often get a headache. I call it the "eyeball overload" headache. I say this as an avid museum goer. There are usually a few pieces that I am very keen to see. I'll try to get them in first. After that I only have a certain amount of time (depending on how much rest I've gotten) before my eyes just short out. I'm usally stroll around and try not to read labels. Eventually, I'll go back and look at things that need more study. This can happen because I make it a point to visit art museums when I'm on business trips and thus I generally have to go alone.

I accept that all signage isn't for me. I might read everything in the medieval gallery and skim through the Impressionists.

We started doing the same thing at the zoo. We've taken the DD 4 times this year. We'll focus on an area and the rest of the time we're leisuring heading to or from the car. One might see us that that point and think we're totally bypassing cool animals when we already spent a bunch of time with the penguins or monkeys.
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  #11  
Old 09 November 2007, 05:32 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by qualli View Post
I think it's stupid. If you assume people aren't reading the texts then you'll start writing like the text doesn't matter. I nearly banged my head against the wall when a currator told me proudly that in two years they hoped to get rid of 90% of the text.
I understand what you're saying here, however in my experience, many museums rely on signage way too much, and many places could stand to revise exhibitry so that the artifact and its display speak for itself, reducing the necessity for excess signage.

Nothing irks me more than going into a museum and then having to spend the next 3 hours reading sign after sign after sign instead of easy observational meandering.

Although, I may be slightly biased, as my first real artifact-handling job was at the Arabia Steamboat Museum, which has a distinctly different exhibitry display philosophy that uses few signs, and relies on tour guides and preservationists to answer questions.
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  #12  
Old 09 November 2007, 05:38 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by qualli View Post
I'm also not very impressed with the "layers of info" such a audio tours and palm devices. Just put up a frickin sign.
When we visited Stonehenge this summer, they handed out little listening devices that were supposed to tell you about the history and such. I find little aesthetic pleasure in such devices, whereas I find reading a description quite pleasant.

As it happened, I didn't listen to the audio, and there was nothing for me to read. I enjoyed looking at the old pile of rocks, though.
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  #13  
Old 09 November 2007, 05:38 PM
Insensible Crier Insensible Crier is offline
 
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I rely on those little labels, especially at art museums. I usually don't have a clue what I'm looking at until I read the label.

"Oh it's a giraffe eating an apple..."
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  #14  
Old 09 November 2007, 05:42 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by qualli View Post
The reward (some say $100) has been left unclaimed to this day.
So... the first person who heard about this sign didn't head straight to the Smithsonian, seek out the sign (or skip that part and go directly to the gift shop) and claim the reward?
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Old 09 November 2007, 05:50 PM
Gayle Gayle is offline
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by qualli View Post
It's a given fact within the field that someone will only spend 30 seconds looking at an artifact and reading the text. Which is why new interactive ways of delivering the information are becoming popular.

I think it's stupid. If you assume people aren't reading the texts then you'll start writing like the text doesn't matter. I nearly banged my head against the wall when a currator told me proudly that in two years they hoped to get rid of 90% of the text.

I'm also not very impressed with the "layers of info" such a audio tours and palm devices. Just put up a frickin sign.
Yeah, but when you're reading vision starts to go, those interactive things are wonderful. In order for me to get close enough, I'm going to have to get past all the kids in front and then the kids can't see and the parents get mad.

Also, I usually go alone and I do NOT want to overhear some of the stupid conversations going on around me. It's all I can do not to butt in and correct some assumptions. Actually, I did once when a teacher was at the First Ladies' Exhibit at the Smithsonian. She said that the first lady was the president's wife, but the students were awfully confused about how Thomas Jefferson was married to Dolley Madison and his own daughter and how Andrew Jackson was married to his neice and his daughter in law.
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  #16  
Old 09 November 2007, 06:29 PM
ULTRAGOTHA ULTRAGOTHA is offline
 
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I not only read them, I fume about how incorrect some of them are.

ULTRA "it's not a needle, it's cloak pin!" GOTHA
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  #17  
Old 09 November 2007, 07:37 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tootsie Plunkette View Post
So... the first person who heard about this sign didn't head straight to the Smithsonian, seek out the sign (or skip that part and go directly to the gift shop) and claim the reward?
The problem being that the Smithsonian Institution is made up of about 19 museums and each one has several gift shops. It's hard to decide which one the OP means.
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  #18  
Old 09 November 2007, 07:51 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chloe View Post
Does anyone else find museums and art galleries often make them cry (please please please let this not just be me)?
Never cried. I did get a brain overload at the Uffizi in Florence. It cost so much to go in (about £15 with all the extras) and I knew I may never be there again. Thus I bought the 'complete catalogue' and looked at all the featured pictures (and many others). A real feast, but I was bloated by the end.

Fortunately in the UK nearly all the major museums are free (in London all are free), so I can pop in whenever I want for no cost. Thus I may spend an hour or so in the British Museum, then go to the V and A for a bit and then maybe the Natural History or Science Museum for an hour or so.
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  #19  
Old 09 November 2007, 08:02 PM
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I'mNotDedalus I'mNotDedalus is offline
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chloe View Post
Does anyone else find museums and art galleries often make them cry (please please please let this not just be me)?
At the Art Institute, I've been so blown away by Mary Cassatt's, Childe Hassam's, etc. works, that that rarest sentiment, "I'm proud to be a member of the human species," nearly had me gushin'. Is that what you mean?
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  #20  
Old 09 November 2007, 08:31 PM
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I read the labels, it's part of the experience and the point of the visit. Just looking at a bunch of items without any context will not give much.

I even remember what I read, so I noticed that the nice little museum at the Citadel in Amman has two statuettes both claimed to be the oldest depictions of humans yet found...
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