People walking into the National Museum of Australia

Space and the Museum

Social science shows how space affects people’s enjoyment in public places. One study of the Tate Museum used behavioural observation methods and computer simulations to study visitors. The study found that the layout of the building predicted movement and enjoyment. It seems simple but deceptively so; layout, shapes and other physical cues matter as much as the objects on display.

“At the Tate, visitors took advantage of a strongly interconnected central hallway or ‘main street’ to explore the gallery space, moving back and forth from main street to the interesting side alleys. What this meant overall was that visitors were able to move easily and casually through the space, enjoying an arrangement of displays that could be visited in a number of different ways, but always maintaining some sense of orientation within the larger gallery.”

Study: Hillier, B et al. (1996) “Tate Gallery, Millbank: a study of the existing layout and new masterplan proposal.” Published open access by University College London. Quote via Psychology Today.