Social Design in Museums: The Psychology of Visitor Studies

This acclaimed collection of essays is a two-volume, 928 page publication. It distils the exceptional insights and advice of one of the world's leading thinkers in the field of visitor studies, Stephen Bitgood, a pioneer in the field of social design. Spanning both theory and practice, Social Design in Museums is guaranteed to have you thinking afresh about the fundamentals of your organisation's interface with the public. Its contents are crucial to an understanding of the learning process within museums - and an essential step towards enhancing your institution's effectiveness.

Social Design in Museums brings together a selection of Stephen Bitgood's key essays, complete with contemporary updates, resulting in a practical, comprehensive reference handbook for professionals in those specialisms which contribute to effective museum communication: including design, learning, curatorship, visitor studies and marketing. 

The 46 chapters include practical, down-to-earth advice on topics such as: how best to check the readability of exhibition texts, and how to formulate questions and sample your audience to get useful results; as well as time-saving summaries of the key results from important visitor research studies.


1. Introduction
Introduction to Social Design in Exhibition Centers
Studying Museums from a Social Perspective: An Update
The Anatomy of an Exhibit
A Comparison of Formal and Informal Learning

2. Methodology
An Overview of the Methodology of Visitor Studies
Glossary of Visitor Studies Terms
Designing Effective Exhibits: Criteria for Success, Exhibit Design Approaches, and Research Strategies
Practical Guidelines for Developing Interpretive Labels
Visitor Evaluation: What Is It?
Assessing the Readability of Label Text
Sampling for a Visitor Survey: Finding Your Way Through the Maze
Some Thoughts on Cued Versus Non-Cued Visitor Evaluation

3. Attention
An Attention-Value Model of Visitors in Exhibition Centers
Museum Fatigue: A New Look at an Old Problem
The Concept of Value Ratio and Its Role in Visitor Attention
Behavioral Economics and The Value Ratio in Visitor Studies
A Parametric Study of Text Passage Length, Size of Font, and Proximity of Text to Pathway

4. Orientation
Visitor Orientation and Circulation: An Introduction and Update
Principles of Orientation and Circulation
When is a Zoo Like a City?
Orientation and Wayfinding in a Small Museum
Wayfinding at the Birmingham Zoo
Visitor Orientation and Circulation: Some General Principles
Visitor Turning and Exiting in Museum Galleries
Visitor Circulation through a Changing Exhibits Gallery
Visitor Circulation:Is There Really a Right-Turn Bias?
Museum Orientation and Circulation
Principles of Orientation and Circulation within Exhibitions
Suggested Guidelines for Orientation Signage
Does Lobby Orientation Influence Visitor Satisfaction?
Visitor Orientation: Are Museums Similar to Casinos?
Orientation and Circulation: Selected Annotated Bibliography


1. Exhibition Design
Principles of Exhibit Design
Suggested Guidelines for Designing Interactive Exhibits
Evaluation of the Falling Feather Exhibit on Gravity
Deadly Sins Revisited: A Review of the Exhibit Label Literature
Prompting Visitors with Signage
Formative Evaluation of a Pepper’s Ghost Exhibit Device

2. Simulated Immersion
Immersion Experiences in Museums
The Role of Simulated Immersion in Exhibitions
Towards an Objective Description of the Visitor Immersion Experience
Memory of Objects, Labels and Other Sensory Impressions from a Museum Visit
A Study of the Immersion Experience from Self-Reports of Cued College Students
Dioramas in Exhibition Centres: A Selected Review and Analysis

3. Social Influences
Social Influences on the Visitor Experience
A Closer Look at Families in Museums: Children’s Age
Group Influences on Adult Visitors: A Comparison of Couples and Peers

4. Zoos
Zoo Visitors: Can We Make Them Behave?
Understanding Your Visitors: Ten Factors That Influence Visitor Behavior
Post-Occupancy Evaluation of the Predator House at the Birmingham Zoo
Studies of the Validity of Visitor Self-Reports in Zoos
Reducing Public Feeding of Zoo Animals
Control of Littering: A Comparison of Three Approaches
Zoo Exhibit Design: The Impact of Setting Factors on Visitors
What’s Good for the Polar Bear is also Good for the Visitor

5 Miscellaneous
School Field Trips: An Overview
Science Café: Summary of Evaluations and Lessons Learned
A Primer on Memory for Visitor Studies Professionals
Multicultural Pluralism and Visitor Evaluation

Stephen Bitgood is Professor Emeritus of Psychology at Jacksonville State University, USA. A founder of the Visitor Studies Association, and of the Visitor Studies Conference, and co-editor of Visitor Studies: Theory, Research and Practice, he has spoken and published widely and has undertaken extensive research in exhibition centres (museums, science centres and zoos) focusing on how to increase the impact of exhibits by applying psychological principles.

Museums, zoos and other organisations that aim to engage and communicate with their target audiences need evidence-based design. Steve Bitgood has done more than anyone else to forward this project. His ground-breaking results, here gathered together in accessible form, are required reading for all who care about visitors and the application of objective knowledge to the solution of practical problems."
Dr Roger Miles, formerly Head of the Department of Exhibitions & Education, Natural History Museum, London.

When Steve Bitgood mentioned to me that he was thinking about pulling together a selection of his articles, papers and studies for possible publication, I knew that a milestone was about to be reached in the relatively young field we call visitor studies. A glance at the list of entries included in this volume reveals both the scope of the depth of his exploration of the behavior of the visitor in museums and other informal educational venues. What stands out in all of his work is his commitment to the use of empirically-based visitor data to support his findings. This commitment to verifiable and validated evidence stands in marked contrast to some of the speculation that not infrequently masquerades as scientific "truth" in describing visitor behavior. If museums are going to take seriously their role as (informal) educational institutions, they will have to pay much more attention to the kinds of work represented by this valuable collection.
Harris Shettel, Museum Evaluation Consultant, Rockville, Maryland, USA.

Steve Bitgood’s work sets the benchmark for quality research in this field... This book offers great insights into the methods of studying visitors as well as a sound introduction to the many aspects of visitor psychology that can be examined. For practitioners it offers guidelines and hints for designing visitor experiences in museums and zoos that will make a difference.
Dr. Gianna Moscardo, Professor, School of Business, James Cook University, Australia.

Hundreds of millions of people visit museums every year worldwide, yet until fairly recently we had little information on what they get out of those visits. Now we are beginning to understand with some rigor how powerful museums can be in shaping cultural meanings, communicating ideas, and forming attitudes about art, history, and science. Stephen Bitgood is one of the pioneers who have been developing these understandings. His new book brings together a trove of insights, methodologies, and sharp thinking about every aspect of the act of visiting a museum. This book will make a terrific introduction to the realm of visitor experiences for young professionals, and serve as an essential reference for old hands as well.  
Dr Alan J. Friedman, Consultant for Museum Development and Science Communication, New York.
This book is simply an essential 'must read' for everyone involved or interested in visitor studies. Covering over twenty years of expertise and insight, it is also the first general introduction to the field of visitor studies that includes a specific focus on zoos.
Harry Schram, Educator, KMDA/RZSA – Antwerp Zoo.


Title: Social Design in Museums: The Psychology of Visitor Studies (Two Volumes)
Author: Stephen Bitgood
Pages: 928
Size: 216 x 140mm
Date: 2011
Editions: £95 [paperback - two volumes] | £145 [hardback - two volumes]

ISBN: 978-1-907697-19-7 and 978-1-907697-32-6 [paperback] 
ISBN: 978-1-907697-20-3 and 978-1-907697-33-3 [hardback]

Problem ordering online? Download our Order Form

Email us:

We offer all our readers an unconditional guarantee: if, at any time, you decide this book’s not for you, simply return it to us for a full and prompt refund. 

Visitors also bought