Questionnaires and Guidebooks

22 July 2016

Seeley

Research Intern Blog

Hello again! This week focused on visitor experience—yay, questionnaires!  I've spent most of the week revising and implementing the questionnaire I drafted last week and interpreting its results. I lurked around the Welcome Centre at the House on Monday and around Bell Gate on Tuesday, starting conversations with a variety of unsuspecting visitors. The results were unanimously in favor of more information, whether that be about eighteenth-century tourism of Stowe (a majority were not aware that Stowe had been a huge tourist attraction 300 years ago) and other country estates or the garden paths and monuments as they stand today. Preferably information displayed in a succinct, readable format around the entire site, from New Inn, through the gardens, and into the house.

What to do with the valuable feedback provided by the questionnaire? Well, the desires of the visitors are extremely important, but accommodating them presents several challenges, given the unique needs and restrictions of Stowe, as a National Trust gardens site, an historically significant residence protected by the Stowe House Preservation Trust, and a working school. Now that I have some idea of what is wanted and what might be helpful, I can brainstorm ideas of what would be the most interesting, enriching information to present and how exactly to present it. I can then discuss with both Anna at Stowe House and Sophie at the National Trust, so that we can all come up with a plan of site interpretation (i.e. what information is shared and how it is presented) that would ideally integrate the entire site from New Inn to the House through the stories and journeys of visitors to Stowe during the long eighteenth century.

You can still find me in the library (likely leaving an indent in the seat by now) researching historical tourism and visitor experience at Stowe. Pictured are current objects of study: the 1797 edition of Seeley's guidebook to both gardens and House (at that time published by the next Seeley generation), complete with illustrative engravings, and Gilbert West's 1732 poem on his uncle's Stowe, which provided a standard route around the gardens for subsequent guidebooks, like Seeley's and Bickham's.