Inert instruction : an evaluation of opposing label, object, and goal-orientation display formats in communicating with museum visitors
This study set out to assess the impact of selected exhibit design formats on the reactions of visitors to the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland. The principal aim of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of opposing object, label, and goal presentations to communicate with, that is, to attract, interest, and instruct, the casual museum visitor. The contrasting object formats were: an unstructured display versus a thematically grouped one. The text variations were: single block labels versus a series of multiple labels with bold headings. Goal statements were either present or absent from the other format combinations. The treatment combinations were successively varied within one museum display case. They were evaluated using observation of visitor movement patterns and timed viewing, and written test scores and visitor comment responses. The results of these measurements were analysed using a comparison of treatment means, multiple regression, chi square, and correlation coefficients. The results provide conclusions regarding the use of bold headings, orientating statements, and thematic displays. Further implications are provided for cognitive assessments in museums and for visitor behavioural patterns, such as viewing sequences and use of signs.