Why Museums Captivate Our Hearts and Minds

Bringing together experiential marketing and museums

Museums have been honing the craft of inspiring audiences for centuries and many today are on the cutting edge of human connection, pushing experiences to new heights. Group Delphi’s decades of experience partnering with museums have taught us many lessons about exhibiting.

“Doing museum work gives us the kind of insight from a hands-on perspective that a lot of other companies really don’t have,” observes CEO Justin Hersh.

Here are some of the best lessons we’ve learned about how to captivate hearts and minds through compelling museum experiences.

Start the Experience Early

The second you get out of your car in the parking garage and note that you’re parked in — no, not Level 2, but the “Purple Octopus” level, the museum experience has already started. You haven’t even paid for admission yet, but you already know exactly where you are and what type of experience you can expect inside. Plus, you’re not going to forget that octopus. Museums, galleries, and aquariums know how to engage their visitors early, often leveraging digital experiences that visitors will engage with when planning their visit.

Point the Way

That purple octopus from the parking garage, it’s also pointing a helpful tentacle in the direction of the elevators, showing another strength of museums: wayfinding.

Once inside the museum, you’ve got choices to make. Do you want to see the new exhibition on Georgia O’Keeffe’s flower paintings? Try the Earthquake Shake Experience? Or see the Penguin Habitat? Yes to all three? There are festive signs on the walls pointing the way. You look at your feet, noting the brightly painted paths on the floor to guide you, no matter your height. After years of answering the same questions for lost penguin-seeking visitors, museums have mastered the use signage, maps, and architecture to lead you through both to and through an experience. The signage itself is often playful and beautiful — integrated into the overall design of the museum space.

Tell a Story in Sound

As you look up at the rocket suspended over your head, you take in the incredible visual details: the careful lighting, the ceiling providing a sense of stars. There’s also a noise: a crackle of an old radio, a low rumble of engines, a voice counting down in seconds. Museums embrace multisensory experiences, using sound, in particular, to immerse visitors in a place and time.

The Salvador Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, created an interactive AV exhibit with a virtual version of the master himself, who, in true Dalí form, ask visitors to consider topics like death, immortality, and art. Anyone visiting a Dalí exhibit is likely familiar with his work and distinctively peculiar perspectives on the world. The Dalí Museum knew exactly how to deliver on it — by bringing the artist back to speak to visitors directly from beyond the grave.

Build to Last

Museums, particularly ones that encourage interaction with the exhibits, have to provide the same flawless experience to visitor number 10 and to visitor number 10,000, so the durability of exhibits is essential. If you build it well once, you save costs and time in the future repairing the exhibit — and no visitor is happy with an exhibit that’s broken and out of commission. Each interaction creates wear and tear. The quality of construction is paramount if you want to save budget and headaches in the long run.

Measure, Learn, Evolve

Museums have a key advantage in that they’re exhibiting every day. This offers notable insight into their audiences and what they want, as well as the time to rethink and retool. Is everyone gravitating to the digital interactive on black holes, but ignoring the diorama on neutrinos? This isn’t a failure, it’s data.

This is how museums keep their audiences captivated, and inspires many return visits!

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