Family Learning Forum

A Project of the USS Constitution Museum

Involve the Senses

  • Smell is a very powerful memory tool
  • Utilizing the sense of touch is an opportunity for discovery
  • Full body kinesthetic experiences actively engage visitors
  • The more senses are involved in an exhibit experience, the more likely visitors will create a lasting memory

Why should I use this technique?

An exhibit is more likely to be effective if a variety of exhibit techniques address of range of visitor learning styles. Smelling the pine tar in the ship’s rigging or the salted cod carried in barrels creates a more vivid experience than simply reading about life at sea. When visitors climb in a hammock or get on their knees and scrub the deck, it is a full body experience. These are the activities eliciting the most comments in exit interviews, and most frequently recalled, even years after a visit. The Chicago History Museum took this to the extreme when they created an exhibit for kids called “Sensing Chicago.” Based on extensive front-end and formative evaluation with children, the exhibit uses the senses as a window to history — smell the fire of 1871, hear the roar of the crowd at a baseball game, or climb into a giant foam roll and see what it feels like to be a famed Chicago hot dog with all the trimmings!