Potential interaction and potential investigation of science center exhibits and visitors' interest

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Abstract

This research consisted of studying the characteristics of interaction and investigation potential present in museum or science center exhibits. Categories (strong and weak) for the characteristics of interaction potential and investigation potential were established. Fifteen exhibits were chosen from the Museum of Science (Ottawa) and from two science centers (Sudbury and Toronto); these were representative of the established characteristics and categories. A test was constructed that measured the interest in an exhibit in a museum or a science center. The final analysis of the test (20 items) reflects a coefficient of homogeneity (Cronbach alpha) of 0.97 (n = 278). In terms of the characteristics of interaction potential and investigation potential, a significant difference among the ranks of interest was not found once they were regrouped under the categories of strong and weak. The hypothesis of a relationship between the interaction potential and visitors' interest in an exhibit in a museum or science center and the hypothesis of a relationship between the investigation potential and the interest aroused were both rejected. In regards to the interaction potential, median ranks of interest in exhibits of 8.6 for the strong category and of 7.5 for the weak category were observed. In terms of the investigation potential, median ranks of interest of 7.0 for the strong category and of 9.1 for the weak category were observed. In the case of investigation potential, even if the difference is not significant, there is an indication that the strong investigation potential seems to have the effect of creating disinterest in the presentation of an exhibit in a museum or in a science center. In the context of new museum and science centers, the view of developing exhibits which are primarily objects which stimulate interest must be maintained. If this is done with exhibits that arc interactive and have an investigative approach, it is necessary for those in charge of museums and science centers to consider other characteristics in order to ensure capturing visitors' interest.

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