Conferences and Lecture Series Archive

The Museum Experienced: Exploring the Role(s) of the Senses in Museums

September 2014 to December 2014

Think back on your most recent visit to a botanical garden.  Your memories likely include the plants you saw, and also the sounds of birds or leaves rustling in the wind; the smells of flowers and of earth.  Perhaps you stroked a soft fern or tasted an herb.  Was it hot or cold out?  Rainy or sunny?  Did you walk, ride, or run through the exhibits and spaces?  All of your senses were engaged.

Museums have long sought ways to present objects in ways that provoke curiosity, are intellectually stimulating and visually compelling.  In this series we explore how and whether the multi-sensory immersion that so enriches visitor experience in some kinds of museums (including gardens, zoos, outdoor history museums, hands-on science museums), might be extended to other kinds of museums.  How would experiences of art, history, or science change if those museums expanded beyond the visual to encompass a broader array of senses?  What new audiences might they attract?  Over the last decade, museum scholars and professionals have begun to ask these and other questions about the role(s) of the senses in museums.

"The Museum Experienced" brings together academics and museum professionals to underscore the advantages of raising our "sensorial IQ" in order to create visitor experiences that are both more inclusive and more resonant.  Topics to be addressed include the challenges of incorporating different modalities within traditional museum space, examples of how museums around the world are working to create engaging multi-sensory museum experiences, the surprising history of the use of senses in the museum, and how many museum experiences transcend the sensory and embrace spiritual relationships with objects.  Attendees will emerge with an enhanced understanding of possibilities that exist through reassessing the role of the senses in museums and an ability to create exhibits and experiences that connect with visitors in new and unique ways.
Andreas Keller, Research Associate, The Rockefeller University
Oct 9 2014 - 7:00pm
Helmut Stern Auditorium, UM Museum of Art
Nina Levent, Founder, Inclusive Center
Oct 23 2014 - 7:00pm
Helmut Stern Auditorium, UM Museum of Art
David Howes, Professor of Anthropology and the Director of the Concordia Centre for Sensory Studies at Concordia University, Montreal
Nov 6 2014 - 7:00pm
Helmut Stern Auditorium, UM Museum of Art