Visitor self-report behavior mapping as a tool for recording exhibition circulation

Gretchen Nurse Rainbolt, Jacob A. Benfield, Ross J. Loomis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


The evaluation of visitor flow within a museum or exhibition has been a topic of interest for decades with several research approaches taken over the years. Direct observation or visitor tracking during museum occupancy is the most popular technique, but it generally requires substantial amounts of time and financial resources. An alternative approach to direct observation-visitor self-mapping-is presented using data obtained from 2 short-term, small-budget evaluations of a world-class collection museum. Results show that self-mapping provides usable data with more than 90% of maps having tracking data for the entire museum. Maps varied in the amount of detail, but more than 60% of visitors provided details beyond what was required. In Study 1, movement patterns, sweep rate indices, and timing data suggest that the mapping data accurately reflected the visitor experience. Study 2 directly paired the self-mapping method used in Study 1 with unobtrusive behavioral observations to address the reliability and validity of the new approach. A discussion compares the relative costs and benefits of the new approach with more conventional direct observation techniques and provides directions for future research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)203-216
Number of pages14
JournalVisitor Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • Communication
  • Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management
  • Museology


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