The use of light in museum design plays a crucial role in enhancing the visual experience of visitors in museums. Although atmospheric factors such as lighting design are important in enhancing the exhibition space’s atmosphere, few studies have evaluated the design of these factors, and how they can affect the visitors’ experience. The main aim of the research was to develop a lighting matrix that increases the understanding of
how visitors perceive and respond to different kinds of exhibition lighting, and how this enhances their visual experience inside the exhibition hall. Furthermore, the study aimed to move from pure functional performance to people-driven museum lighting design.
The research utilized a quantitative approach by using a questionnaire to identify visitors’ preferences regarding museums’ lighting settings of two case studies. The survey
was carried out in the real environment, and then in the virtual environment. A sample of 160 respondents evaluated the main exhibition hall in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo in the Real environment, and 40 respondents evaluated the Egyptian hall in the Birmingham Museum in the UK in the Real environment. Additionally, 66 participants evaluated four computer-generated scenes of the main hall of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, Egypt, and 66 participants evaluated four computer-generated scenes of the Egyptian hall in the Birmingham Museum and art gallery, UK. Different lighting settings in each scene were adopted with the aid of virtual reality as an experimental tool using a semantic differential scaling method. Both environments were evaluated to study the effectiveness of Virtual Reality in simulating the real environment.
The survey data was analysed using SPSS, and different tests were applied to understand the relationships between the different variables using descriptive and inferential analysis. Moreover, the Spearman correlation test, Friedman test, and Chi-
square test were applied. The test results showed that the more the lighting characteristics of the exhibition spaces were diverse and thrilling, the better the exhibition space was perceived, and the longer visitors were willing to stay and return. The results showed that the lighting distribution and colour could greatly affect the perception and impression of space as perceived by visitors specifically bright / dark, and colourful/ neutral tone of the lighting settings. Furthermore, the research developed a lighting matrix that could be applied to an extensive range of museum lighting settings. This lighting matrix is a contribution to knowledge that is beneficial to lighting designers, architects, museum owners, and evaluators.