The nature of ‘experience’

I have found myself engaged in a surprisingly animated discussion on Twitter – at least, by my standards – on whether or not it is a good thing that museums have shifted from the idea of learning – absorbing and imbibing information about art and the world in a broadly passive/receptive way – to a belief and interest in visitors’ ‘experience’ – the idea that autonomous individuals don’t just absorb information, but construct it according to their own desires and interests: a more active idea as to how people experience museums. It may be that the idea of ‘experience’, as used in The Experience Economy, has become a cliché. But it is still a way of describing a big shift in the way that museums now think about visitors. I like the comment of the person who said ‘[Museums] forget they aren’t the centre of people’s lives, but one modest sausage roll at the buffet table of life’.

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