Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Dr. Erika Loeffler

Second Advisor

Dr. Ann Miles

Third Advisor

Dr. Art Helweg

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access


This study investigates the interrelationship between the museum, its mission, and its visitors. The history of museums in general and the Kalamazoo Valley Museum in particular shows how the mission developed in relationship to culture, community, and individuals. Observations and ethnographic interviews of visitors and staff, as well as drawings made by school children who had visited the museum were used to identify viewers' perceptions of the museum and its mission. The museum is guided by an official stated mission as well as various staff and administrative interpretations of the mission. Although the museum and its mission have changed through time according to changing contexts, visitors understand the museum by bringing exhibits into their own personal framework of experiences and expectations. This work contributes to other research in the area of museum and visitor studies and offers feedback to the Kalamazoo Valley Museum as to the success of its efforts.