Institute of Archaeology


Cross-disciplinary frameworks for studying visitor experiences with digitally mediated museum exhibits

The aim of the study is to expand and develop new interdisciplinary methodologies to better understand interaction and meaning making around digital museum exhibits.

The study combines analytical and methodological approaches from motivation, multimodality and embodied interaction to explore their effectiveness for gaining insight into the relationship between motivation to visit an exhibition and particular exhibits within it, the elicitation of embodied forms of interaction - in particular social and emotional experiences - with digitally mediated exhibits, and their role in fostering meaning making and learning in a family context.

To achieve the above aim the project's objectives include:

  • Identify how visitors use space and interact with digital exhibits and one another to make sense of them;
  • Explore the relationship between motivation to visit a digital exhibit and the interactive experience itself;
  • Critically interrogate and expand the methodological and analytical frameworks (e.g. embodied interaction and multimodal perspectives) available to study visitor interaction, meaning making and learning with digitally mediated museum exhibits;
  • Generate empirically based insights to inform museum exhibition design, visitor research and evaluation.

Findings suggest that digital technologies have the potential to be valued by families visiting museums, and were shown to support scaffolding and collaboration, but the specific designs were instrumental in shaping participation, engagement and involvement.

Overall the findings suggest that multi-touch technologies are better suited to joint action and collaboration than tabletop technologies using camera recognition software, and to foster engagement with the exhibits content rather than simply the activity it is supporting. But that parental motivation to support the 'family visit' still resulted in scaffolding interactions around these exhibits with their children

Related outputs

  • Knowledge transfer event for Natural History Museum and V&A staff, September 2014
  • Poster presentation at 'Learning Beyond the Classroom' conference organised by King's college London, June 2014
  • Paper co-authored with Sara Price, Carey Jewitt and Eleni Vomvyla, (under review), The role of interactive digital exhibits in supporting scaffolded family interaction, to appear in International Journal of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning.
  • Findings from this study will also appear in a Museum Learning volume (co-authored with Jill Hohenstein).


  • IOE/UCL Strategic Partnership Research Innovation Fund