This thesis uses visitor studies from the Rochester Museum & Science Center (RMSC) to investigate whether dioramas are still a useful, resonant tool for visitor engagement and if they do fulfill this purpose, how do they do so. The case study is the newly revamped diorama Rochester in 1838: Young Lion of the West at the RMSC. This diorama, a 70-year-old model, has been mixed with modern Virtual Reality (VR) technology to create an experience that will provide the visitor with a new perspective on an old model. As context, this thesis uses the history of the diorama to show the evolution of exhibition in museums. It also discusses the literature about how VR technology engages contemporary audiences. In addition to visitor observation and surveys, this thesis also includes insights from an interview of an artist and the restorer of the RMSC’s diorama. By comparing the artist’s intentions to visitors’ responses and lastly the museums expectations, this thesis will develop conclusions about the potential for the ongoing relevance of dioramas in museums. The visitor studies conducted for this thesis will also yield useful information to the RMSC for the development of a new VR vignette for the Rochester in 1838: Young Lion of the West diorama.

Publication Date


Document Type


Student Type


Degree Name

Museum Studies (BS)


Michael Brown

Advisor/Committee Member

Kathryn Murano Santos

Advisor/Committee Member

Tina Lent


RIT – Main Campus