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Why Did You Write Designing Museum Experiences?

About five years ago I started teaching at Ibero University in Mexico City and a student asked me “how do you create an experience?” and I thought that’s a really good question. That question was the start of this book;  Designing Museum Experiences.

I was teaching user-centered design. I thought “all right I will teach these students how to create inclusive experiences”. Then Black Lives Matter protests started happening when I realized museums or not actively engaging visitors in civil society and civic engagement, a lot of people were talking about diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion (DEAI) but not a lot of people were talking about how to do it? I start thinking about how to do this?

Designing Museum Experiences – Three Step Process

I started reading lots of books and I couldn’t find anything within the museum realm about how to create inclusive museums.   In my mind it comes down to empathy, which I think of as platonic love, mapping understanding the visitors journey and known performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics. Having empathy for the visitor, real empathy only happens through in-depth conversations and in-depth understanding of the motivations of behavior.  

How to make the museum part of the visitors life, not the visitor part of the museum’s life and it’s an important distinction. How do you create the journey for the visitor to have lifelong learning with museum includes; journey mapping, stakeholder analysis, and understanding all of the touch points between the museum and the visitor and taking down the walls of the museum. Understanding how museums are part of communities both online and in-person.

Then COVID-19 happened and it forced me to think about the future of museums now that all closed museums are closed. How can museums restart to better be part of transformative experiences for visitors and change in communities? I believe in the Theory of Change and then an important part of but I think it was this methodology in not only transforming people the transforming communities I can take you through some of the specifics of what I have in mind but in a nutshell that’s Designing Museum Experiences.


Theory of Change

1619 Project


Mark Walhimer is a managing partner of Museum Planning, LLC, a museum consultancy, and a part-time industrial design professor.

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