The New Museum is the only museum in Manhattan dedicated to contemporary art. Its mission and philosophy are centered on “New Art, New Ideas,” which means that they exhibit, document, and interpret contemporary art made typically within the last ten years, constantly changing the pieces and exhibitions that are on display.
Mobile guides, guided tours, audio guides, websites, and wall-texts are some of the current means and methods used in art museums to deliver information about their collections and exhibitions to visitors. This research examines current and traditional delivery modes of information in a museum setting with the purpose of determining the best methods of informing, educating and engaging visitors. To accomplish this, the following paper analyzes the responses to surveys from fifty-three New Museum visitors to understand their digital behaviors, preferences, information needs, and interpretation strategies for contemporary art. The survey asked participants to gauge which digital format, video, audio, or text they would select as their preferred format to learn about art. The results show that 46% of the visitors preferred a combination of formats, 26% preferred text, 10% video, 6% audio, and 6% image. Although the text, as a traditional way of learning, is one of the preferred methods, it may not be the most conducive for the majority of art pieces. Often, the mode of information delivery does not align with the genre of the art discipline. The digital format should, therefore, match the art form and provide a variety of entry points to the artwork.
During the month of November 2019, the New Museum visitors were invited to participate in a survey to analyze their digital behaviors, information-seeking methods, and learning strategies in relation to contemporary art. A total of fifty-three visitors were surveyed as they were viewing the galleries of the museum and as they were exiting the museum. The visitors were informed about the project and methodology and asked whether or not they wanted to participate in the survey. During the entire process, the answers were recorded and transcribed in a spreadsheet. The survey was administered via paper and the average duration of the survey was fifteen to twenty minutes. Participants were selected randomly yet when chosen were asked if they were over 18 years old. The survey was conducted in English yet there were few exceptions made for Spanish speaking participants. The survey coincided with two art exhibitions at the New Museum “Carmen Argote: As Above, So Below” and “Hans Haacke: All Connected,” allowing the researcher to include some of the artworks on display. The survey consisted of twelve questions, including open and closed-ended questions, Likert scale, demographics, and multiple choice. These questions were categorized into four sections: 1. museum visitor behaviors, 2. contemporary art, 3. learning experiences, and 4. demographics.
I am the single author of this work.
This project allowed me to investigate a museum as an information environment and its audience needs, behaviors, and experiences through appropriate research methods and data analysis. Under the supervision of my advisor at Pratt and my supervisor at the New Museum, I was able to determine the appropriate research methods and data analysis (quantitative and qualitative). The investigation has the potential to contribute to the field, provide insights and recommendations to the museum. The research brings an original topic. The New Museum was served through the results provided.