Engaging in Art: Cultural Consumption and Disconfirmation of Visitors to Museums in Hong Kong and Macau

  • TING, Vivian W Y (PI)

Project: Research project

Project Details


Museums have long been considered as guardians of knowledge, arbiters of taste, and most importantly, patrons of informal learning, in fostering the cultural life of the public. Nevertheless, the cosmopolitan lifestyles of Hong Kong and Macau have intensified the fierce competition within the arts and culture sector, and museums are often competed with a range of arts organizations to attract more visitors (Kotler et al, 2006). A decrease in the number of museum visitors suggests that museums are failing to engage the people by making the museum collections relevant for contemporary society (Sandell, 2007; Weils, 2000; Zhang, 2003). To gain a competitive advantage over other art activities, museums need to reflect on how their services can relate to a wider audience. This study critically evaluates the museum experiences of visitors, based on the gap between their expectations and perceptions, and their emersion in the visiting process.

This research is built on museological approaches for understanding visitors in the hope of developing a new museum culture that is proactive to the socio-cultural needs of the community (Liu, 2011; Simon, 2010; Black, 2005). In reviewing the many empirical studies, the focus has been on the visitors’ personal context that helps museums to develop short-term programmes for visitors. These studies have a risk in losing vision about the socio-cultural significance of museum visits in relation to the cultural life of contemporary society.

To fill this gap, this interdisciplinary research aims to develop a theoretical approach towards visitor studies for the Hong Kong Museum of Art and the Macau Museum of Art. This study is inspired by the idea of cultural consumption, from cultural studies and the disconfirmation of expectation paradigm from the marketing field. It investigates what museums offer to diverse audiences, such as knowledge, social status, and cultural interests, and the museum experiences of visitors, in relation to exhibits, educational activities, accessibility facilities, shopping and dinning, and architecture and design. Using observations, semi-structured interviews, and questionnaires, this research explores the different patterns of museum experiences of visitors in relation to their socio-cultural background, and general perception of the arts and culture, while theorizing how visitors relate to museums in the context of cultural life. The theoretical model for the experiences of museum visitors can be used to analyse the characteristics of art audiences and their engagement with museums, and to formulate new strategies for managing and sustaining visitor participation.

Effective start/end date1/01/13 → 31/12/14


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