The Visitor Studies Association (VSA) seeks to foster a sense of community among colleagues, who gather once a year to pose intriguing questions, explore diverse opinions, debate controversial issues, challenge assumptions and share their successes and their struggles—in essence, to learn from one another.

Join us July 10 - 13, 2019, in Detroit, Michigan, for 32nd Annual Conference!

Ways of Knowing

How do we know what we know? The story of visitor studies is long and somewhat winding -- and it continues to grow and evolve. Over the years, visitor studies professionals have built a breadth and depth of knowledge around visitors and their experiences, and although our work is generally grounded in the social sciences, we have sought to find meaning in a variety of ways and through a wide range of approaches. From research to evaluation, to facilitation and everything in between, we are tasked with answering questions that are sometimes big and sometimes small. These questions may inform specific institutional strategies, and they may also inspire and inform our field and beyond. But how do we know what questions to explore, or what questions are worth exploring? Who is responsible for exploring these questions?

For this year's Conference, we invite attendees to consider how epistemologies of visitor studies are articulated in our practice. Some questions we think this Conference theme will allow speakers and presenters to address include the following:

  • How can we conduct studies that honor stakeholders' needs and perspectives while also informing our field's "big" questions?
  • What counts as research, evaluation, or evaluative thinking, and what kinds of professional roles and stakeholder relationships do these domains imply? In what ways do the lenses of practitioners inflect visitor studies, and what can we learn from experiential knowledge that may or may not include systematic investigation?
  • What do we assume about the outer limits of our field? What are the implications of those boundaries in the work we do?
  • How can we better respect and honor ways of knowing that differ from dominant lenses, especially when dominant lenses may include the disciplinary traditions that underpin visitor studies? How can the specific approaches of visitor studies be leveraged in support of greater equity among stakeholders?
  • How do the professional competencies we associate with visitor studies reflect specific beliefs and responsibilities about the nature of expertise? How does this translate to our efforts in capacity building and career pipelines?
  • How can we acknowledge and reflect our roots as multidisciplinary while continuing to contribute to a cohesive, shared domain of scholarship? How can we build on the foundational knowledge of our field?


View the Conference Schedule at a Glance here.