Museum Atmospherics

I’ve recently had a review article published in the journal Visitor Studies titled  “Museum Atmospherics: the role of the exhibition environment in the visitor experience”. The abstract is here, there’s also a link to the full text [1].

The article is based on the literature review I did in the first year of my PhD and sets the scene for my research. It describes the concept of atmospherics, a term coined in the 1970s to describe how marketers and retail designers can influence consumer behaviour through design choices.

Atmospherics can be considered the psychology of consumer environments, and I provide an overview of the psychological theories that have informed atmospherics research. I also review some of the more notable studies that have been done in retail atmospherics, demonstrating relationships between design features and consumer behaviour. Comparable relationships exist in museum settings, and I argue that museums have sufficient similarities with retail and other service environments to make atmospherics relevant to the study of exhibition environments. Finally, the article sets out a research agenda for museum atmospherics as a way of further characterising the exhibition environment and its role in the visitor experience. This is the research gap that my PhD is helping to address. A work in progress!

[1] – Link to full text is available to Visitor Studies subscribers only (or libraries that have it as part of a Taylor & Francis subscription bundle). If you don’t have access to a subscription but would like a copy, I have a limited number of eprints available – just drop me a line in the contacts page and I’ll send you one.



6 Replies to “Museum Atmospherics”

  1. Hi Regan and thanks so much for sharing this. I have now moved to the ANMM and have yet to sort out my VSA membership, etc, so is it possible to get an e-version of your article please? We are planning a major new immersive visitor experience here and I think your work will be very helpful. Are you planning on coming to Sydney at all in the near future? Be great to get you here to chat to us!

  2. Hi Regan. A great paper – very thoroughly researched. I touch on atmospherics in my PhD but it’s not a focus. I think your research and mine are very complementary – mine focusing more on design and factors that influence it from the project management end, designer intent and interpretive aims, whereas yours focuses on visitor experience. I also focus on cognitive, affective and behavioural modes of visitor engagement.
    Sounds like you have nearly finished the thesis? I am just doing minor changes so hope it is all done soon. We should get together next time you are in Melbourne.

    1. Thanks Toni – the thesis is definitely on its way! I’m currently data wrangling – following on from the research agenda this article sets out, I’ve developed a survey instrument for measuring “perceived atmosphere” – the key elements of an exhibition environment as visitors perceive it. This worked well, and I’m now relating how people say they perceived the atmosphere with how they described their experience and / or how they behaved in the exhibition. Now it’s time to put that all into a coherent, thesis-worthy story. I reckon I’ll be wrapped up within the next 12 months (famous last words . . .).
      Congrats on your thesis – will be great to catch up and share notes at some point.


  3. Hi Lynda!

    Im currently a master student studying user centered design in Cologne, and have finished my degree in architecture from Belgrade. Im really interested in combining the two fields (architecture and user centered design), for my thesis and I find that the research your doing might be a great influence on my train of thought. I would love to get a copy of your paper and any other advice you might be willing to give. 🙂

    Thanks a bunch,

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