The effects of real and online museums on art appreciation and memory

Effects of real and online museums on art appreciation and memory

Imagine sitting in your house, all cozy and comfy. You don’t feel like going anywhere, but you want to do something. You turn on the computer, and suddenly you’re browsing through The Museum of Modern Art. This is better than the real thing. Or is it?

The online museum is certainly better than the real thing when convenience and the pocketbook are priorities.

But it seems the real museum experience is better for art appreciation and memory according to a group of researchers from the University of Vienna.1

The researchers had participants examine 25 pieces from the Beauty Contest Exhibition either at the Museum Startgalerie Artothek in Vienna or virtually on a computer. The works in this exhibition were paintings, photographs, and collages about identity and beauty. Then the researchers tested the participants’ art appreciation and memory for the works.

Art pieces were more arousing, better liked, and more interesting when viewed in the museum than the lab.

Memory was also better for art pieces viewed in the museum than a lab – a week later. According to the researchers, the participants who viewed the art in the museum simulated the spatial layout of the exhibition in their minds and used cues in the simulation to prompt their memories. The participants in the lab lacked the spatial information, and their recall for the art took a nosedive.

This research reminds everyone not to forget the real thing.



1 Brieber, D, Nadal, M., & Leder, H. (2015). In the white cube: Museum context enhances the valuation and memory of art, Acta Psychologica, 154, 36-42.


Image Attribution

MG_digital_6 by M G