Wayfinding. The issues aren’t new…

A 1906 V&A floor plan (McIlwraith)

Been dipping in and out of Medium recently as many bloggers seem to have moved to that platform, yet another one to grapple with (*sigh*).

Anyways, came across some interesting work by Shelley Bernstein looking at traffic patterns in a new and exciting way. Wayfinding our future introduces research the Barnes Foundation is doing into visitor movements and experiences, and the second post, What pop-up ice cream can teach us about pedestrian traffic patterns, is an inspired way to test out visitor pathways and flows. For those of us with large outdoor spaces this seems like a great (and yummy!) way to conduct research.

Some of the work I’ve been doing around visitor movements and wayfinding showed that visitors use a variety of methods to move around the museum’s site, meaning that multiple tools need to be offered – maps, signs, people. A side effect of these findings is that visitors who are curious will often use no tools at all as they rush to satisfy their curiosity! A study we did of our foyer movements also found that apart from the ticket sellers, the first museum person visitors encountered were the volunteer model ship makers, leading us to ensure that these staff members were ready and engaged to talk to visitors about what the museum has in the galleries, not just about ship models.
In my quest for a suitable image, I came across this delightful post, Best laid plans: mapping the V&A by Andrew McIlwraith, an historical account of guide maps over 140 years, prepared for the V&A. A great insight into this thorny issue that museums have struggled with for centuries!

As digital tools and mobile apps are becoming more commonplace for museum wayfinding, the lessons learned from these posts – observing visitors, talking to staff and visitors, thinking outside the box – are even more important to understand their needs, desires and behaviours when visiting a physical museum. Simple advice I know, but oft-overlooked…

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