Measuring the visual in the museum: Social meaning mapping as a means of capturing more than meets the eye.
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Visitors’ visual engagement with the museum collection has been treated as a proxy for their learning. Researchers use a number of methods to measure this engagement, including timing and tracking studies for which they observe visitors while in the museum and mark the location and duration of their stops on a printed copy of the museum’s floor plan. This chapter presents Visitracker, a tablet-app used in timing and tracking studies, and Social Meaning Mapping (SMM), a digital tool embedded in the Visitracker app, used by visitors to recount their experience in a museum room postvisit on a digital copy of the room’s floor plan. Visitors are invited to mark their experience verbally and visually using a digital paint toolbox. The app records their audiovisual annotations which can be accessed through the Visitracker portal. Examples from two studies highlight SMM’s contribution to a multimodal understanding of the museum visit as it facilitates the collection of visitors’ own multimodal accounts of their experience. With the museum visit being recognized as a multimodal event in which vision is only one way through which visitors engage with the collection, this chapter argues that coupling timing and tracking with visitors’ Social Meaning Maps provides a more holistic understanding of the museum experience as an embodied and multimodal event, unfolding in time and space.