Designing Museum Experiences by Mark Walhimer

Mark Walhimer teaching Georgia Institute of Technology

Passionate about creating community-based inclusive museums

ABOUT THE BOOK

Museum Visitor Experience is a “how-to” book for creating visitor-centered museums that emotionally and intellectually connect with museum visitors, stakeholders, and donors.

Museums are changing from static, monolithic, and encyclopedic institutions to institutions that are visitor-centric, with shared authority that allows museum and visitors to become co-creators in content creation.  Museum content is also changing, from static content to dynamic, evolving content that is multi-cultural and transparent regarding the evolution of facts and histories, allowing multi-person interpretations of events.

Museum Visitor Experience leads readers through the methods and tools of the three stages of a museum visit (Pre-visit, In-Person Visit, and Post-visit), with a goal of motivating visitors to return and revisit the museum in the future.  This museum visitation loop creates meaningful intellectual, emotional, and experiential value for the visitor.

Using the business-world-proven methodologies of user centered design, Museum Visitor Experience leads the reader through the process of creating value for the visitor. Providing consistent messaging at all touchpoints (website, social media, museum staff visitor services, museum signage, etc.) creates a trusted bond between visitor and museum.  The tools used to increase understanding of and encourage empathy for the museum visitor, and understand visitor motivations include: Empathy Mapping, Personas, Audience segmentation, Visitor Journey Mapping, Service Design Blueprints, System Mapping, Content Mapping, Museum Context Mapping, Stakeholder Mapping, and the Visitor Value Proposition.

In the end, the reason for using the tools is to empower visitors and meet their emotional and intellectual needs, with the goal of creating a lifelong bond between museum and visitor.  This is especially important as museums face a new post COVID-19 reality; only the most nimble, visitor-centered museums are likely to survive.   

The companion website to Designing Museum Experiences, Museum-Experiences.com, features:

  • Links to additional visitor-centered museum information
  • Downloadable sample documents and templates
  • Bibliography of sources for further reading
  • Online glossary of museum visitor experience terms
  • Daily checklists of “how-to” provide and receive visitor-centered experiences
  • More than 50 associated Museum Visitor Experience documents

Also associated with the book is a companion online paid course that leads students through the process of creating their own visitor-centered project: museumcourses.com

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Walhimer is a managing partner of Museum Planning, LLC, a museum consultancy, and a part-time industrial design professor.  His company, Museum Planning, LLC, specializes in the planning, design, and management of interactive educational experiences. Walhimer started his firm in 1999 to assist start-up and expanding museums with feasibility studies, strategic planning, museum master planning, exhibition design, exhibition project management, fabrication supervision, installation supervision, and staff training.

His firm has completed more than 40 projects worldwide for an international clientele that includes science centers, art museums, history museums, libraries, and corporations. Projects include providing “turnkey” museum services for the City of McDonough, Georgia’s C.O. Polk Interactive Museum; project manager and National Park Service liaison for “Alcatraz: Life on the Rock” traveling exhibition; project manager for Museo Interactivo de Economía (MIDE) in Mexico City; and master planning and exhibition design for Trans Studio Science Center in Bandung, Indonesia. Prior to starting his company, Walhimer held positions at Discovery Science Center in Santa Ana, California; the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis; Tech Museum, San Jose; and Liberty Science Center. Mark has also been Chief Operating Officer of a museum exhibition design and fabrication firm, and is the author of Museums 101, a how-to guide for creating and organizing all varieties of museums.

Walhimer has a bachelor’s degree in studio art from Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York, and a master’s degree in industrial design and exhibition design from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York.

Mark Walhimer Curriculum vitae (CV) (needs updating)

Museum Community Engagement Resources

Creating Inclusive Museum Experiences: Empathy, Mapping, and Metrics PDF (needs updating with graphics, to be added)

Museum Planning LLC PDF

Museum Inclusion Simulator

Museum CX Research