Abstract – Drs. Chris Malcolm and Doug Ramsey
Dr. Chris Malcolm, Department of Geography & Dr. Doug Ramsey, Department of Rural Development, Brandon University
The Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre (CFDC) in Morden, Manitoba, Canada, is home to the largest collection of marine reptile fossils in North America. The CFDC houses thousands of local finds from active dig sites across the Manitoba Escarpment. The Museum has experienced average annual increases in visitation since 1994, is noted as a Manitoba Star attraction, and was rated in the top 5 travel destinations in Manitoba in Maclean’s. Due to the limited space of the Museum, the staff and volunteers display 21 exhibits to its visitors, with hopes of expansion to a larger facility. This study reports on a survey of visitors to the CFDC in the summer of 2012 (n=137). The purpose of the study is to classify visitors using the recreation specialization paradigm (in this case past experiences and exposure to paleontology and ancient marine reptiles), as well as assess expectations and satisfaction, as tools for future expansion planning. This is the first application of the specialization approach to museum visitors. Visitors were characterized by a low degree of specialization in the subject area, indicating a basic education program is required. Participants reported high levels of satisfaction with respect to important reported expectations. However, open-ended comments indicated that some participants did not fully understand the material presented in CDFC interpretive displays, which corroborates the specialization finding. The results illustrate a successful application of the specialization approach to museum tourists, which may help to improve interpretive message design.