Museums, galleries and the international visitor experience

Theme Modern Languages

The quality of information for international visitors to London’s museums and galleries varies enormously, revealing preconceptions concerning communication and culture – often negative in subtle ways.

National Gallery London

Initial research was conducted during an AHRC-funded research workshop series (June-December 2007). One original feature was that field work and native language focus groups were conducted in France, Spain, Germany, Russia, the Arab Gulf States and Hong Kong.

All the participating museums and galleries recognised the sector’s need for information to be available in languages other than English. However, there was open acknowledgement that it remained variable in quality and quantity. Furthermore, some museums and galleries believe they have developed a global brand which obviates the need for different types of information for international visitors.

The project team developed a new model of effective high-quality, culturally-informed, audience-targeted information – Communication for Intercultural Navigation (CIN) – which informs the process of producing high-value information for use by linguistic/intercultural specialists in discussion with the needs of a particular museum or gallery, and meeting cultural and linguistic expectations of international visitors.

The major beneficiaries were the museums and galleries involved in the workshop series and their international visitors. The National Gallery in particular implemented changes to a range of information areas, despite the fact that preliminary research showed that the quality of its information guides for international visitors already exceeded that of other leading UK museums and galleries.

After taking part in the workshop series, the National Gallery considered that the research allowed it to:

  • provide culturally-specific resources varying in ‘breadth’ and ‘depth’ to suit all its visitors
  • facilitate the preparation of visits, encourage more meaningful on-site engagement with collections and enhance post-visit engagement by encouraging further interaction through guidebooks, audio, printed and online information
  • benefit not only international audiences, but also the student community and those in the UK and globally who study culture in an international context, as well as domestic multicultural audiences
Following participation in this workshop series, the National Gallery identified excellent quality, culturally aware information for our large numbers of international visitors as a priority area for development in the increasingly competitive global cultural tourism market. Elena Lagoudi, (former) Head of Information, National Gallery, London.

Who's involved

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Supported by: AHRC

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