Follow up: identities and behaviors of visitors to Civil War museums

The identity and behavior schemes that Falk, Pekarik, et. al., and literally dozens of others visitor studies professionals (e.g. Stephen Bitgood’s theories on attention and value, or Molly Hood’s thinking on why people don’t go to museums) are drawn from visitor studies across the museum discipline. So what we know about who goes to museum and why, is derived from visitors to art, children’s, history, science, and natural history museums, as well as zoos and aquariums.

Makes me wonder about a few related things:

Can identities and behaviors of the existing audience for Civil War museums be extrapolated from larger museum-goer frameworks? Do visitors to Civil War museums behave consistently in the ways that Falk, Pekarik, and others predict?

I think in some degree they will, particularly in regard to race, class, and educational habit markers. But I also think a study of the identity, motivation, and behavior of visitors to Civil War museums will reveal significantly different profiles than those of general museum-going audiences. Few people, for instance, go to an art or natural history museum to walk in their ancestors’ footsteps. Few study and connect with gems and minerals the way Civil War enthusiasts do with weapons, tactics, and leaders.

How can we use these (proposed) different results in predictive models of behavior to attract traditional museum-goers (particularly those who visit art and science museums) who—for a variety of identity reasons—will not visit a Civil War museum?

More importantly, what do we know about the identities and behaviors of non-traditional audiences. Attracting them means overcoming two hurdles: the lack of a museum-visiting habit, and the point-of-entry problem regarding Civil War museums in general. Can we discern in those audiences an identity or motivation factor that we might appeal to? (This is getting far beyond the idea that layering in diverse social histories will produce a diverse audience.)

But we don’t know… and that’s the point. No one, as far as I know, is doing that work.


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