Date of Award

Summer 8-2018

Degree Type


Degree Name

MA Museum Professions


Communication and the Arts


Petra ten-Doesschate Chu, Ph.D.


museums, multi-sensory, museum visitor, preservation, collections


In the late twentieth century, museums moved from a near exclusive focus on researching, collecting and preserving objects to an increased interest in visitors’ experiences and learning. Consequently, today’s museums are re-focused on facilitating engaging connections between visitors and collections. Nonetheless, many current-day museum visitors are dissatisfied with their primarily visual experiences. In order to enhance visitors’ intellectual, emotional and physical connections with objects, this paper argues museums should introduce new ways of visitor interaction with objects through narrative and multi-sensory experiences. By combining discursive and immersive exhibition models, museums can create narratives that emotionally and intellectually involve visitors.

While museums should aim to make visitors’ museum experiences more immersive by incorporating senses in addition to sight, such as touch, hearing, smell and taste, museums must also protect the integrity of their collections. Through a tiered or stratified approach to collections, museums may remain responsible for their collections yet allow visitors to increase their physical, emotional and intellectual access to more diverse types of objects. This paper demonstrates how museums may implement discursive and immersive narratives as well as tiered or stratified, multi-sensory collection experiences in permanent installations, temporary exhibitions and educational programming.