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Information Inquiries Of A Museum Visitor And Museum Information Space: In Search Of Adequacy

Tatyana G. Bogomazova , Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology & Ethnography of the Russian Academy of Scienc, Russia
Valentina G. Uzunova , The Russian Academy of Sciences, Russia


Session: Educational Users

Sociological survey of 1997 "Museum Sociology: Visitor of Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (Kunstkammer) of the Russian Academy of Sciences (MAE RAS)" was the first stage in comprehension of the nature of relationship between Museum and its visitor within the frames of the project "Virtual Kunstkammer". The main result of the survey comes to the conclusion that visitor comes to MAE "for science" counting on getting professional information in essential cultural problems. Unlike visitor of arts museum visitor of science museum is not an onlooker, but a sort of customer. Here the dialogue "specialist-visitor-specialist" envisages organization of the visitor's perception in order to bring him from given point of his own information space to correct conclusions of the scientific one.

Going through museum halls and listening excursion visitor catches the sense there exists some hidden from him, invisible essential objective laws. It is this feeling of some hidden superiority of specialists to provoke many questions of visitors. The target of this subconscious provocation is to involve them in the context of museum demonstration in the capacity of modern cultural pragmatic. They need culture not as an end in itself, but as a way of communication, social orientation, social self-affirmation, social mobility. In this vista MAE RAS has superior position, as its type provides opportunity to meet exactly inquiries of cultural pragmatics and enables there cultural self-determination. Final index of satisfaction/unsatisfaction of visiting of the museum is based on the following points:

1. expectations over exposition content

2. cultural pragmatism and instrumentalism

3. "points of current cultural significance"

4. initial pursuit of the visitor to capture the position of equal participant in the dialogue

5. controllability of perception

If the museum takes all these parameters into account, it enables successful dialogue, i.e. communicative satisfaction of the visitor.

Rejection of customary role of the museum as a didactic institution and transition to equal dialogue is to be carried out taking into account the following simulated levels of information perception:

1. Perception level "beginner"

2. Perception level "curious"

3. Communicative perception level

4. Creative search perception level

5. Perception level "master"

While creating museum information space (on-line and off-line publications and electronic installation/kiosk built into real museum exposition) we are to take into account the danger of both overload and simplification. Thus there appeared the idea of "information matreshka", which enables control of transition over levels, envisaging a visitor of both real and virtual Kunskammer to apply some effort ("acquire a key") to do it. Simulated “rules” of “informational matreshka” while creating museum on-line and off-line publications are as follows:

1. To create simulated informational barriers measuring the flow of information

2. To design the navigation system taking these barriers into account: every forthcoming layer of information is to be checked up from the methodological point of view

3. The more vague is the user interest, the more inventive technology and computer design should be

4. The more proficient is the information user inquiry, the more simple computer design may be.

This approach does not close the access to information, but just brakes achievement of the next level carefully measuring information flow out . As a result museum rejects its didactic position towards a visitor and passes to equal dialogue with him.