Focus on visitors: what are visitors to heritage sites really interested in?

Holiday snaps. Snippets of experience. Souvenirs. Keepsakes. Momentos.

Capturing the historic city of Lucca, Tuscany, Italy

 Making an album. A record. Telling a story. A story of a place and my experience in it.

Modern technology and visitor experience. With a tablet, she can record moving images and her own spoken commentary. She is not downloading – she is uploading, creating.

I might put money on this turning out to be the most important use of modern technology in visitor experience at heritage sites. It is self-directed, creative, open-ended. Quite a lot like fun and leisure. So, how do site managers and interpreters support and enhance this interaction?

All around us, wherever we go, people are snapping and whirring. Catching the moment. Seizing the (holiday) day. Those of us who work in cultural tourism or visitor experience at heritage and natural sites have got to be interested.

“Seize this moment. Capture this memory. Record for all time that I climbed this tower in Lucca.”

“Now let me check you’ve got it right. This is my story, my memory that we are looking at here. I have some editorial control.”

Watching photographers tells us what they are interested in. What they notice. What they want to take home with them. Maybe it does it better than the answers to our carefully constructed questions when we accost them with a clipboard.

A common question when I am talking about visitor segments and what different types of people want from a visit to a heritage or wildlife site is “What about photographers? They seem like a special group.’. And so they do.  The correct, i.e. straight from the market researchers’ mouths, answer to the question is that no, they are not a segment because they have different motivations for taking pictures.  Interesting.

“Let it be known that we were all here. Having a great time, together. “

I did it! A photograph proves that I did it! (In this case made it to the end of the cantilever on the Tahune Forest walkway in Tasmania)

“I want to remember what it was like to be here among the tall trees, in the wilderness.”

I have spent the summer watching people taking photos and I think that’s true. I can spot different groups. Social photographers, intellectual/specialist photographers, seizing the moment photographers, artistic/aesthetic photographers.

Watching visitors in the places they visit is never time wasted.

“Do you remember when we were young and carefree and I danced in the square in Lucca?”

I hope she liked the photograph and that it did justice to her dancing.

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About susancrosstelltale

Great visits to heritage and natural sites do not happen by accident. This blog is about the work that make special sites great places to visit. I hope it will be useful to visitors and host alike. Find out more at me and my blog.
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2 Responses to Focus on visitors: what are visitors to heritage sites really interested in?

  1. Regan says:

    I too have a lot of photos of people taking photos from my recent US museums trip. I’m still sorting through them but I noticed some similar things. I found it interesting (and sometimes strange) to see what people wanted their picture taken in front of!

  2. Pingback: Viewed through a lens | Interactivate

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