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Abstract

Two hundred and thirty-four museum visitors of all ages were observed as they entered the Object Gallery area of the Florida State Museum. Visitors were observed under conditions where objects were available for close inspection but could not be manipulated (baseline data) and later when the same objects were placed on tables and were available for visitors to touch, move, and use a variety of senses to inspect them (intervention data). Data were recorded on the sex, age, and number of subjects in these areas under each of the above conditions. The results obtained show a significant increase in the number of visitors entering this section of the museum when manipulatable objects were available. Baseline data showed that 58.5% of the people who entered the Object Gallery went into the drawer section. However, when manipulatable objects were made available this increased to 82.3%. Chi-square analysis was used to determine whether the presence of manipulatable objects in the area increased the number of people who entered the area. It did (p < 0.05). Chi-square analysis was also used to determine whether entering the drawer section depended on age or sex. It was found that more children entered the drawer section than adults (p < 0.05) and significantly more female children and female adults entered as a result of intervention (p < 0.05). At the same time, more male children than adults entered after intervention (p < 0.05) than before. These data are supported by considerable curiosity research indicating that both children and adults are attracted to novel as well as complex stimuli which can be manipulated in both formal and free-choice environments. The data also support the growing movement to hands-on exhibits in natural history museums and science centers around the country, as well as hands-on classroom activities from the perspective of their attention attracting and holding power and their curiosity evoking characteristics. Whether these positive factors also lead to increased knowledge or skill development is a question yet to be explored.