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Works of art have been referred to as a good source of fuel for the engagement of art museum visitors, thus art museum education researchers and practitioners have sought to create opportunities active social interactions between visitors related to the art they view in museums. However, research investigating different ways to encourage active interaction between visitors, particularly adult visitors, has not proliferated, in part due to the lack of baseline data on aspects of experiences of art museum visitors in interaction with each other. The purpose of this study was to explore the nature of conversations between visitors in an art museum gallery. The study examined the experiences of 40 adult individuals in pairs in two rounds of data collection in order to explore the content and verbal interaction of conversation of visitors in an art museum gallery. The conversations of participants in front of particular works of art in the art museum gallery were audio-taped following the participants' completion of background information questionnaires. Individual and comparative analyses of the conversations were conducted to gain insight into the content and nature of the interactions between each pair, with attention to both verbal and nonverbal characteristics. The analyses elucidated the characteristics and commonalities of these experiences according to type of visitors. The results revealed that 1) adults attempted to make sense of what they saw through talk with the other member by exchanging individual observations in conjunction with a variety of personal resources, 2) adults observed artworks in association with the art museum space and materials, and 3) adults had more involvement in meaning-making through conversation, as continuing steps of reflective and promotive processes between pair members. The study concluded with suggestions for future research and suggested practices for exploring the conversational experiences of various types of visitor groups as a means of facilitating intriguing social interaction in the art museum or of planning art museum education programs.
constructivist museum, cooperative learning, adult visitors, museum education
Date of Defense
March 3, 2011.
A Dissertation submitted to the Department of Art Education in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Includes bibliographical references.
Pat Villeneuve, Professor Directing Dissertation; Paul Marty, University Representative; Tom Anderson, Committee Member; Anniina Suominen Guyas, Committee Member.
Florida State University
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