The Goodness of the Goal of Being Delightfully Lost

Many museums strive to eliminate all potential for confusing the visitors. That goal may sometimes work against the interest of the visitors and the interests of the museum, suggests this report:

Delightfully Lost: A New Kind of Wayfinding at Kew,” Natasha Waterson and Mike Saunders, paper presented at the Museums and the Web conference, April 11-14, in San Diego, California.

The authors, at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, UK, explain:

“In October 2010, Kew Gardens commissioned an in-depth study of visitors’ motivations and information needs around its 300-acre site, with the express aim that it should guide the development of new mobile apps. The work involved over 1,500 visitor-tracking observations, 350 mini-interviews, 200 detailed exit interviews, and 85 fulfilment maps; and gave Kew an incredibly useful insight into its visitors’ wants, needs, and resulting behaviours.

“It turns out that most Kew visitors have social, emotional, and spiritual, rather than intellectual, motivations during their time here. They do not come hoping to find out more, and they don’t want or need to know precisely where they are all the time. In fact, they love the sense of unguided exploration and the serendipitous discoveries they make at Kew—they want to become ‘delightfully lost.’

“This paper will explore how this perhaps counterintuitive idea—to help visitors become “delightfully lost”—has influenced mobile thinking at Kew.”

Co-author Watterson produced some videos, of which this is one:


(Thanks to Genevieve Bell for bringing this to our attention.)

BONUS: The Kew Gardens mobile app (the link takes you to the iTunes store)