Audiences in all their diversity are an essential component of any cultural institution. An institution's legitimacy is rooted in its service to the public: presenting and making available the results of its cultural work. Audiences are more and more in the focus of these institutions.  A museum, for example, understands visitor orientation and its implementation as a strive for excellence in the full panoply of museum work, from infrastructure to collection policy, from exhibitions to museum education and mediation programmes. 

 

The premise of visitor orientation is to know one's visitors, their expectations and their needs. Far from submitting to the diktat of mass opinion, its purpose is to reach the institution's goals in the most efficient way. Therefore, an organisation needs to gain sufficient knowledge about its users' opinions and wishes. In order to design an outstanding cultural offering, it is crucial to have information about the social structure of visitors, their behaviour, their motivations, their satisfaction levels, the interests of potential target groups, as well as to respond to their feedback. This information should be gathered through systematic and in-depth research going far beyond simple audience observation. 

 

Visitor research is an instrument used to gain scientific knowledge about visitors and target groups. It includes fundamental research in humanities and social sciences as well as their implementation in empirical studies. Amongst them are the so called “visitor studies”, case studies dealing with specific questions raised by one particular institution. Their findings are of direct benefit to the institution thus examined. 

Visitor studies could bring answers to the following questions,
amongst others:
 

 

 

ImageWho are our visitors?

ImageWhy do they come, what do they expect?

ImageDid I reach the target group I wanted to reach?

ImageWho are the potential visitors who did not come?

ImageWhy didn't they come?

ImageHow well-known is our institution?
ImageWhat image does it have with the general public?

ImageAre our visitors satisfied?

ImageHow did they behave in the exhibition, which parts of it did they visit,
Imagewhat texts did they read, which hands-on displays did they use?

ImageHave we managed to answer the needs of our visitors?

ImageDid we achieve the objectives we set up for the exhibition?

ImageWhat do our visitors think of the new display
Imageor the educational concept we have developed?