UGR researcher carries out the first study in Spain on museum visitors

December 11, 2007

Museums command respect from most people, and although the majority of the society has a "positive" opinion of museums, this respect depends on personal experience and how museums have been regarded since childhood. These are the results of a pioneer research project carried out by Laura Almazán Fernández Bobadilla and directed by the professors Mª Dolores Álvarez Rodríguez ( Department of Music, Fine Arts and Body Expression), and Eduardo Fernández de Haro (Department of Educational and Developmental Psychology ) at the University of Granada.

The project studies visitors to the "José Guerrero" exhibition centre in Granada, Spain. It highlights that half of the visitors have "a basic understanding of art", whereas others admit they have none. Moreover, most people do not visit the centre regularly, and even less visitors attend exhibitions on a monthly basis.

Laura Almazán has carried out the first project at a national level focused on museum visitors in general, rather than on one specific exhibition. The researcher calls for placing more importance on the museum educator, a professional that is becoming increasingly more relevant both in Spain and abroad. Nonetheless, in Spain, museum educators can only be found in a few museums, such as the Artium Museum, in Vitoria; the Guggenheim Museum, in Bilbao; and the Reina Sofía Museum, in Madrid, among others.

According to the study, half of the visitors are interested more in the work of art than in the artist. Furthermore, individuals approach works of art differently, some search for information, others merely view the pieces and others show no particular reaction. When visitors do not understand the piece of art, half of them consider it to be due, firstly, to their own lack of knowledge, and secondly to the work of art itself.

A learning experience

The research carried out at the University of Granada (UGR) shows that when an individual searches for information, the visit to the museum is regarded as a learning experience. On the other hand, when the individual merely looks at the work, the visit is thought of as a leisure activity.

According to the research, visitors with a wide knowledge of art regard the visit as a visual and learning experience; whereas people with a basic knowledge also consider it to be a leisure activity. Although everybody is satisfied with the visit, those with no knowledge or only basic knowledge of art admit they will only visit the centre every once and a while. Half of the visitors spend less than five minutes looking at a work of art.

In the case of the exhibition centre "José Guerrero" in Granada, people agreed that, in addition to a museum guide, it would be very interesting to have the chance to meet the artist first-hand. "Since this may be a difficult task, the idea should be to encourage local artists and those living nearby to come to the museum. This way, visitors would have the chance not only to meet the artist, but also to understand how these artists perceive their own work, how they approach it or simply find out how they work."

University of Granada

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