Museum Store Association - Museum Store Magazine, Fall/Winter 2019

26 MUSEUM STORE We all have a favorite space: a physical place where we love to gather with friends, share intimate moments with a loved one, or just “be” on our own. Think about yours, and you’ll find that pattern languages are involved. In 1971, Christopher Alexander and a team of researchers compiled a book that has been a foundation of modern social architecture and design. They looked around the world and across time, and when they found a physical thing repeated often, they identified it as a type of physical “language.” They called these “patterns” that seemed essential to healthy human interaction. Animals have ways of creating their spaces and inhabit certain types of places, and humans follow predictable patterns as well. Alexander and his team identified more than 800 patterns, and I’ve observed that successful retail stores regularly employ a few critical ones. And here’s the best part: You already know them—deeply. In museums, pattern languages are used constantly to frame exploration and experience. And, as we know, the museum store’s mission is to extend that educational experience such that the visitor may continue exploration and development long after leaving the museum. The great news for museum stores is that experiences are what people are buying today, and we are sitting on more sales potential than any other retail I can name. So how can we structure, stock, and arrange the store in a way that engages customers with experience? How can we create the kind of special spaces that draw and invite further exploration? We can start with patterns, and the first is the way in which visitors find your store. Researchers tell us that the best feeling our pets experience is the feeling of anticipation. And we are no different. How can you fill visitors with anticipation before they even get to the store? A walkable path is one pattern: Visuals along the way invite exploration, extending thoughts about the store well beyond and before the entrance doors. The museum store has the potential to be not the last “bonus” stop on the tour for visitors, but the part where their personal experiences begin. How do you want them to take the museum home, and is there a way you can integrate those things along the museum’s path? patterns with promise Pattern languages create magic; they are what make spaces feel “right” and engage customers who are interested in— and buying—experiences today. By Lisa C. Uhrik, President, Franklin Fixtures