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Abstract

The theory and practice of IPOP emerged from structured observations and interviews with visitors to the Smithsonian Institution museums in Washington, D.C. from the 1990s to the present—a dataset useful in constructing a long view. This research has had one overarching intention: to serve museum visitors better, that is, to provide visitors with experiences that are above average, special, significant, and memorable. In numerous studies and interviews during the last 16 years, visitors have repeatedly spoken about their reactions to Smithsonian museum exhibitions in four typologies distilling their primary interests: I = ideas, P = people, O = objects, and—as we were obliged to add at a later stage—a second P for “physical.” The evidence suggests that exhibitions that strongly appeal to all four visitor typologies will be highly successful with visitors.