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Thesis (M.S.)

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Old Sturbridge Village offers an innovative and exciting experience in American history to visitors from all parts of the world. However, for many visitors unfamiliar with the interactive mode of interpretation and the emphasis on exploration within the living-history museum, some form of orientation can be extremely valuable. The present study examined the impact on the visitor's experience of the various orientation procedures available at Old Sturbridge Village. Of particular interest was the effect of the two orientation films presented in the Visitor Center theater, although other orientation procedures were considered as well. This research is based on a "pre-test/ exposure/post-test" model in which visitors were interviewed both before and after their trip through the Village in order to determine what changes in their image and information about Old Sturbridge Village had taken place. Within this design, it was intended that the experiences of visitors who saw a film would be compared to those of visitors who did not. A control group of respondents who received only the exit interview was also included. Film-viewing visitors seemed to anticipate spending longer in the Village and did, in fact, spend more time although they do not see a greater number of exhibits. These same results were also found for respondents with a greater extent of orientation. However, neither film-viewing nor greater extent of orientation were associated with increased learning. The greatest impact seemed to come from the entrance interview procedure itself. These visitors saw a greater number of exhibits and exhibited higher levels of learning than those who did not receive an entrance interview. Overall, the orientation procedures are underutilized and evaluation data indicate that only the map and film were perceived as valuable in orienting visitors to the Village. Results provide new directions both in future orientation planning and for further research in the field.