Different Ways to Categorize Museum Visitors Using Surveys

One of the main benefits of using museum visitor surveys is the ability to categorize museum visitors according to personality types.

Asking questions to understand the various personality types of your visitors can help you target your exhibits and collections to their specific interests, as well as improve the operations at your museum.

But what are the specific categories you should be grouping your visitors into? Depending on the visitor experience expert you ask, they’ll likely have a different answer.

Categorize museum visitors with surveys
It’s important to categorize museum visitors into personality types to help grow your business.

Below we’ve rounded up a few visitor categorizations used by popular museums and researchers. Consider using these categorizations when creating your visitor surveys or come up with your own personality categories. The key is to measure the psychological, emotional and intellectual motivation of your visitors.

Dallas Museum of Art (Dallas, Texas)

OBSERVERS – visitors that stand back, having limited knowledge of art, preferring a guided experience.
PARTICIPANTS – visitors that enjoy learning and the social experience of being in museums and galleries.
INDEPENDENTS – visitors that are more confident with their knowledge and prefer independent viewing.
ENTHUSIASTS – visitors who are confident, enthusiastic, knowledgeable and comfortable looking at art, and who are most likely to actively participate in museum programs and be members.

John Falk, Museum Researcher (Oregon State University)

EXPLORERS – visitors motivated by personal curiosity and those who like to browse.
FACILITATORS – visitors motivated by other people and their needs (e.g. a parent bringing a child).
PROFESSIONAL/HOBBYISTS – visitors motivated by specific knowledge-related goals (e.g. a scholar researching a specific topic).
RECHARGERS – visitors motivated by a desire for a contemplative or restorative experience.
EXPERIENCE-SEEKERS – visitors motivated by the desire to see and experience a place (e.g. tourists).

The National Museum of Natural History (Washington, D.C.)

IDEAS – visitors that have an attraction to concepts, abstractions, linear thought, rational reasoning, and facts.
PEOPLE – visitors with an attraction to emotion, stories, and social interactions.
OBJECTS – visitors with an attraction to things, aesthetics, craftsmanship, ownership, and visual language.
PHYSICAL – visitors with an attraction to physical sensations, including movement, touch, sound, lights, and smells.

Beverly Serrell, Museum Consultant (Chicago, Illinois)

STREAKERS – visitors who move quickly through exhibitions, scanning for points of particular interest, but rarely lingering for long. Since they pay little attention to details, they may form broad impressions or take in bold messages, or they may traverse an exhibition without being affected at all.
STROLLERS – visitors who move more slowly, paying more attention or less at various places. They are exposed to many more basic messages, and they may pick up details here and there.
STUDIERS – visitors who are conscientious and diligent exhibit visitors who move very slowly through a gallery, trying everything and reading all of the text. Studiers often linger at single exhibits for long periods of time.

What categories do you use for museum visitors? Tell us in the comments below.

Sources: Museums Ontario, Museum Musings, Smithsonian Institution



Shereen Dindar
Shereen Dindar was a Content Manager at QuickTapSurvey in 2015 and 2016. Have a story idea? Email us at marketing@quicktapsurvey.com