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July 4, 2013

Streakers, Strollers and Students: What Kind of Festival Visitor Are You?

Studious visitors at the One World, Many Voices program's Family Activities area spent forty-five minutes one afternoon last week composing poetry with participant Ifor ap Glyn from Caernarfon, Wales. Photo by Betty J. Belanus

Studious visitors at the One World, Many Voices program’s Family Activities area spent forty-five minutes one afternoon last week composing poetry with participant Ifor ap Glyn from Caernarfon, Wales. Photo by Betty J. Belanus

Museum visitors are often classified by evaluators as “streakers, strollers, and students,” terms apparently coined by Australian museum administrator George MacDonald in the 1990s. Streakers move quickly through exhibitions; strollers take their time; and students stay the longest and learn as much as they can.

Visitors to the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, our ten-day “living museum,” could be categorized in the same way. I have personally observed thousands, maybe even millions, of Festival visitors since I began working on the Festival in 1987. I am amazed at how many of our visitors fall into the stroller or student categories, taking time to watch demonstrations, ask questions, sit through entire discussion stage presentations, and read informational signage. This is rather remarkable at an event that draws a visitor’s attention in many directions, with lively music, delicious food smells, colorful crafts and large decorative structures bombarding the senses from all sides.

The Festival is an amazing 3-D learning experience, and we salute those visitors who take their time, strolling or studying. But, of course, we welcome the streakers as well. Which one are you?

NOTE: Families can enhance their learning experience by picking up the Hungarian Heritage program’s free Family Activity Guide, and visiting the One World, Many Voices Family Activities area and the Collaborative Research tent at The Will to Adorn.

Betty J. Belanus is an Education Specialist and Curator at the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. At this year’s Festival, she is overseeing the daily Festival attendance count and survey administration, presenting in the One World, Many Voices program, and supervising eight interns who are acting as her supplementary eyes and ears in various parts of the Festival.

Comments
  • Anonymous

    Another category is seniors, barely coping with heat and too too much walking. Seniors are hampered by all the security fences that do not allow direct access to exhibits.

    We want to learn, see, touch but physically it is a great effort. Can’t you have more easy access, maybe more handicappers facilities? It is not easy to come alone and take in the festival with no one to help carry, get water or even get quick information.

    Could you maybe have more water tanks. Get a company to sponsor them. It is way to far to walk between water fill tanks – and bathrooms. There must be some way to let older – barely walking people experience a truly great opportunity to broaden their Washington visits.
    The festival is always wonderful. Thanks for all you do to make it so.

    • http://folk1a.si.edu Smithsonian Folklife Festival

      Thank you for your comments. Your experiences and suggestions will help us to prepare better for next year and to expand our efforts to make the Festival accessible to all of our visitors. We appreciate your support and input.