Modern zoos are increasingly viewed as educational facilities, with informal education programmes attempting to engage with visitors through a wide variety of methods. A ‘touch table’ consists of two collapsible tables which display a variety of artefacts to the public. This study investigated visitor engagement with touch tables alongside types of conversations being initiated by visitors. Covert observations recorded the type of groups visiting, their dwell time, perceived engagement level and the types of interactions and conversations they were initiating at the touch table. Dwell time was affected by the season, member of staff present, type of group visiting the touch table and engagement level of the group. Engagement level was also affected by group type. Longer average dwell time and higher engagement levels were displayed at a long-established touch table location, whereas more visitors engaged at the touch table when it was at a new location with predicted high footfall. Here, 68.3% of visitors initiated ‘surface level’ conversation, 27.2% initiated ‘deeper level’ conversation and 89.6% initiated ‘other’ conversation. This study resulted in touch table offerings being adapted to further increase their effectiveness as an informal education tool and to suggests ways in which touch tables can continue in a post COVID-19 world.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited