In essence, what museum professionals are practicing is the art of manipulation–we manipulate what they see, how they see it, what context we put it in, where we place things, how we place things, what they read, if an exhibit is conducive to interacting socially, what they can buy, what they can eat, and, I believe most importantly we manipulate objects to show people what we think is important about them.
Manipulation is neither good nor bad–although it has a more popular negative connotation to it, it’s like the worlds that Falk & Dierking point out in The Museum Experience; “Education” and “Entertainment” all have connotations to them that we usually adhere to. The book and its authors argue that museum professionals and visitors should widen their interpretation of those words.
However, the book actively promotes the manipulation of visitors to better enjoy their museum experience by giving them, in essence, what they want. While one could argue whether or not this is good or bad, I have to wonder whether or not museum professionals are actively aware to their own experiences, whether it be personal, social, or physical when they are designing content for visitors. Is designing museums for a specific response out of visitors a good thing? Is this manipulation or molding of visitors something that museum professionals should fight? Or, should we be learning the art of manipulation to better suit the visitor and museum’s need?