The article aims to enhance the understanding of audience engagement and ways of its shaping in relation to permanent expositions by using the example of Tartu University Natural History Museum. We focus on the role of exhibition curators as content creators in the shaping of audience engagement. The study is informed by constructivist grounded theory and draws upon eleven semi-structured interviews with the curators of the new permanent exhibition of Tartu University Natural History Museum. In order to understand better the curators’ perspectives our analysis relies on the concept of imagined audiences and seeks to answer questions about what kind of engagement modes can be identified from the curators’ comments and what processes the latter were influenced by. The theme of museum audiences and engagement modes should already be familiar to the reader from previous Yearbooks of the Estonian National Museum (Runnel ja Pruulmann-Vengerfeldt 2012; Runnel, Lepik, Pruulmann-Vengerfeldt 2014; Lotina 2014; Rattus 2016). Earlier discussions, however, placed more emphasis to the existence of audiences and engagement modes, and were less concerned with how curatorial considerations can impact the formation of audience engagement and how this formative process may be directed. Furthermore, the earlier in-depth identification of engagement modes and examination of the interrelationships between their various aspects was underpinned by a holistic view on museum activities (Lotina 2016), while the present treatment focuses on the specific context of museum expositions. The concept of imagined audiences (Litt 2012) draws on the study of social media, but for this article we have applied its principles to a museum exposition, which is a far more static communicative environment. 40 The study answered the questions about the kind of audiences the curators who put together the permanent exhibition of Tartu University Museum of Natural History were envisioning and what factors influenced the construction of audiences as well as what engagement modes were designed for the exposition. Individuals and institutions were distinguished among the audiences, both of which were in turn comprised of more detailed groups. Building on Gidden’s theory of structuration (1984) and Litt’s notion of an imagined audience (Litt 2012) the factors influencing the curators were grouped as either structural or agential. The following modes of engagement with the permanent display emerged: teaching, attracting interest, co-operation and provisions for stakeholders. Teaching was closely interlinked with the main objective of renewing the permanent display: the intent is to create a learning environment for non-formal environmental education, and in this respect it resembled the informing mode of audience engagement identified by Lotina (2016). Attracting interest was a mode of engagement which bore similarities to the marketing engagement mode previously described by Lotina (2016). Co-operation where visitors contribute towards the fulfillment of the museum’s objectives offered limited possibilities within the context of the permanent exhibition, but it holds considerable potential in the planning of future developments of the exposition. Providing for stakeholders was reflected in the museum’s consideration of the stakeholders’ needs, and it allows the museum to develop various services. All in all, both museums and their permanent displays offer valuable material for analysing the way in which audiences and their engagement modes are shaped. A better understanding of these processes will help us expand the possibilities of engaging actual audiences. Identifying messages, audiences and activities is a natural part of the planning of any permanent exhibition; however, the content creators’ visions of the upcoming exhibition also merit a detailed examination, and thereby particular factors that favour or constrain curatorial creativity will become clearer.