Front cover image for Deeply connective encounters with museum objects

Deeply connective encounters with museum objects

Rachel Nina Woodbrook (Author), Kris Morrissey (Thesis advisor)
Deeply connective encounters with museum objects are a significant yet under-studied phenomenon. These experiences are characterized by qualities such as transporting the person involved out of the flow of their daily life into a different sense of time or reality, and may contain components of reflection, absorption, deep understanding or intuition, sensory experiences, and awe. Deeply connective encounters are identified by those who have undergone them as personally significant and memorable. This study sought to establish whether descriptions of these lived experiences exhibit recognizable patterns, on the premise that a better understanding of deeply connective encounters could offer insight into the value of museums and of human-object interaction with museum objects. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 12 Library and Information Science, Museology, and Art History graduate students and alumni from the University of Washington; five of these interviews were transcribed and coded for significant statements and similarities. Emergent themes revealed a broad set of qualities often characterizing the experiences, as well as the contexts in which they occur. In general, the data points toward three core characteristics: a sense of being out-of-the-ordinary as opposed to part of everyday life; an encounter with a physical object or objects that enters the imagination and takes on symbolic significance; and a sense of connection oriented both inward to the deep self, and outward to something larger. Although the data pool is too small for the results to be generalized, for the cases examined these experiences do appear to be a unique type of encounter useful for understanding how people relate to objects, and indicating the continued importance of physical objects in the museum. Significant for museums, the interviews shed light on the types of environments that might be conducive to such experiences. Further areas for research could include investigating the importance and influence of surroundings, and how commonly deeply connective encounters occur; delving more deeply into the particular qualities of deeply connective encounters using a greater number of respondents; and examining the differences between encounters with physical objects and digital media
Thesis, Dissertation, English, 2012
University of Washington