Research shows that a visitors’ experience in a museum is greatly influenced and shaped by the social interaction and dialogue developed between visitors (vom Lehn et al, 2001; Crowley, 2000; Leinhardt et al, 2002). In addition, it has been shown that learning and cognitive development are supported when the participants engage in lasting activities with artefacts, and when they are engaged in social interactions and discussions with other participants (Heath, vom Lehn & Osborne, 2005).

According to Hindmarsh, Heath, vom Lehn and Cleverly (2005), most interactive exhibits adopt a very poor concept of interactivity, related mostly with the individual engagement of the visitor with the exhibit/artefacts; and leaving the interaction between the visitors as a lesser concern, or completely absent. In addition, the so-called multi-users exhibits, even though one could expect them to promote interaction between visitors, fail in this purpose since they are planned to promote the simultaneous individual engagement of several users with the same artefact, they are not collaborating or interacting in any creative way – they are only acting in tandem. For these reasons, the authors recommend that it is crucial for museums to reconsider their concept of interaction when planning and developing exhibitions.

  • vom Lehn, D., Heath, C. & Hindmarsh, J. (2001). Exhibiting interaction: Conduct and collaboration in museums and galleries. Symbolic Interaction, 24(2), 189–216.
  • Crowley, K. (2000). Building islands of expertise in everyday family activity: Musings on family learning in and out of museums. Pittsburgh, PA: Museum Learning Collaborative.
  • Leinhardt, G., Crowley, K. & Knutson, K. (2002).Learning conversations in museums. Mahwah, NJ: Laurence Erlbaum Associates.
  • Heath, C., vom Lehn, D. & Osborne, J.(2005).Interaction and interactives: collaboration and participation with computer-based exhibits. Public Understanding of Science, 14(1), 91–101.
  • Hindmarsh, J., Heath, C., vom Lehn, D. & Cleverly, J. (2005).Creating assemblies in public environments: Social interaction, interactive exhibits and CSCW. Journal of Computer Supported Collaborative Work, 14(1), 1-41.