One on One: An Exploratory Study of Facilitated Dialogue at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
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This research examines the Interpretive Guide program at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden as a case study and counterexample to common practices of facilitating interpretive experiences in art museums. Interpretive Guides serve as in-gallery conversationalists available on a regular basis to engage in impromptu dialogue with visitors. They are heavily trained in interpretive techniques and exhibition content and placed in the galleries with a common goal of engaging visitors on visitors' terms. A number of methods were applied to explore the program including surveys, reflective exercises, interviews, and observations. These were utilized in order to come to understand what the conversations with Interpretive Guides "look like," how visitors think about them, and what impact the program has on Interpretive Guides. Results suggest that Interpretive Guides are successful at engaging visitors while utilizing mixed methods (inquiry, information, and interpretation) and that a wide variety of visitors, including those who highly value contemplation, find the program of great benefit to their museum experience. The program also seems to have a significant impact on the Interpretive Guides, who self-report substantial shifts in how they perceive of visitors and the role of socialization in museum experiences. While specific to the Interpretive Guide program, findings speak to the successes and pitfalls of highly responsive and conversational approaches to the facilitation of interpretive experiences in art museums.
- Museology