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Using Personal Meaning Maps to Study the Relationship Between Visit Type and Learning in a Scientific Museum

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This case study method is based on a research conducted at the “Museo Nazionale della Scienza e della Tecnologia Leonardo da Vinci” in Milan and it is aimed at exploring how museum visitors’ learning and experience change due to the kind of visit they take part in. The research considers free tours, guided tours and interactive labs which are the three kinds of visits offered by the Museum. The method adopted is based on the Personal Meaning Mapping (PMM), a methodology commonly used in the museum studies field in order to assess visitors’ learning and perception about a topic. The PMM provides qualitative data that considers the background of the visitors before the visit and their new knowledge (thanks to the previous one) after the experience, giving to the subject the possibility to express his personal perception. The qualitative data is suitable to be interpreted through a quantitative analysis, after schematizing the visitors’ contributions in proper indexes. The paper describes how this methodology can be adapted to this specific research design, changing the frame of analysis of the gathered data and presenting how to use it. The paper provides also some general reflections about the issues to be considered if the PMM is adopted.
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