Thursday, December 13, 2007

Knowledge Workers

I'm really interested in the knowledge society and what that means for museums and organisational change. I have been re-visiting my Peter Drucker texts and been re-inspired by that man's foresight and genius! Susan Groundwater-Smith also put me onto this useful piece of work by Gurteen (2006) who suggested the following attributes of a knowledge worker:

  • connect people with people
  • connect people with ideas
  • are good networkers
  • do not follow the rules
  • have strong communication skills
  • like people
  • feel good about themselves
  • motivate others
  • are catalysts
  • ask for help
  • demonstrate integrity
  • are self reliant
  • open to share
  • are not afraid
  • are goal oriented
  • are able to identify critical knowledge
  • add value to the organisation
  • have strong subject expertise in a specific area
  • network for results
  • trustworthy - can be trusted and trusts others
  • make decisions
  • are not insular
  • do not conform
  • push the boundaries
  • assume authority - ask for forgiveness, not permission
  • strong belief in the value of knowledge sharing
  • are informal active leaders
  • take a holistic view
  • are catalysts, facilitators and triggers
  • good listeners - they listen first
  • do not need praise
  • see the wider picture
  • work well with others
  • do not have a 'knowledge is power' attitude
  • walk the talk
  • prepared to experiment with technology
  • playful
  • take calculated risks

The Gurteen Knowledge Website is useful too.

Social Media and Cultural Communication Conference 2007

Registration is now open for the Social Media and Cultural Communication Conference 2007. The conference brings together a range of great industry speakers from Australia, Canada, USA and UK. It promises to be a provocative day and is aimed at the needs of those institutions small and large who are yet to start fully exploring the communication opportunities afforded by social media. The conference is a single day event on February 29 at the Museum of Sydney. There will be two related masterclasses on February 28 at the Australian Museum. Find out more at
Earlybird registration closes on 17 December - you can download a registration form at

Friday, December 07, 2007

Locals visiting museums

After my excellent lunch the other day with Rob and Gillian, I got inspired (or was that instructed!) by Rob to re-visit his 2005 paper The "Museum Constant": One-third plus or minus a bit (Visitor Studies Today!, 8/2, pp1, 4-7). Rob reports on an analysis of museum visiting data collected over a 13 year period with Australians asking about their leisure activities, demographic profile and personality/self-description items. Generally it was found that around 35% of the Sydney population visit museums, with the interest in museums more noticeable in those who agreed with the statement "I am interested in abstract ideas", then followed by education level.

Four things struck me from that as we struggle here with thinking about our general exhibitions and program offer:

  1. There is a limit to the audience for museums (knew that but good reinforcement)
  2. The limit '... appears to be driven by people's preferences for conceptual cognitive activity' (p.7)
  3. Although education is a strong predictor it acts as an enabler in people participating in the museum experience
  4. 'It may be that museums in large population centres cannot hope to reach all the people in their catchment, but perhaps over time, they can reach about two-thirds of them' (p.7)

In my recent survey of what Australians do online, I found that while those who visit museums undertake the same kinds of online activities (such as read blogs, comment on sites, use RSS feeds, etc), they were more likely to use a wiki; listen to a podcast; tag a web page; comment on a blog; post a rating/review; participate in a discussion board/forum; read a blog.

I'm wondering in future whether these kinds of stats will be affected by the online world and the new kinds of relationships museums will have with their audiences that visit them both virtually and physically? I'm becoming (surprisingly) more interested in how we then develop closer relationships in these aspects as we our rebuild our website and deeply think about our physical offer. To me, the conceptual aspects that Rob talks about are ripe for the picking in those who will interact with us online too.

Maybe time for some targeted research in this area??

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Using Flickr as an evaluation tool

Check out the Flickr audience research site where childrens’ drawings of the African Impressions exhibition are stored. I’m experimenting with using these kind of sites as extra evaluation tools. Thanks to Ariel for doing all the scanning for me.

Any feedback welcome...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

E-kids’ college: afternoon session

What we did this afternoon was for the students to interview some of the Museum's scientists about what they do and their personal and professional interests. Mark and Amanda fielded many questions about their work and how they got interested in their field of work.

There were some really provocative and interesting questions from the students. One lovely one was How do we know what people know and what people don't know? Mark answered that by reminding us that all the answers aren't always to be found on the internet and that there are really cool books that you can use too. They also asked What was the most interesting thing they had discovered? Mark discovered a new species of wallaby, and Amanda's friend also discovered a new species of fish. Other questions were: What is the most weirdest and wackiest thing you've ever done in your job? Any scary experiences? Where's the most interesting place you've been to? Thanks Mark and Amanda, I know I learned more about you two who I usually see every day! Now I understand more about your passions and why you got into doing what you do. Amanda reminded us to hang in there as it may take some time to get some paid work.

The discussions have been really productive, some ideas that emerged at the end were that they:

  • don't want to use mobiles for accessing internet as they are too hard to use (with small keyboards, etc), the screens are no good and they don't have a mouse to use, although when I asked them about whether they'd like to use some kind of mobile device throughout the Museum to gather content they were really keen
  • suggested that we have a blog with question of the week that they can email in
  • would like to have a section on the website where they could leave a comment/feedback about their experiences and see what others have said
  • really wanted to talk to scientists via some kind of video link, where you log in and talk to them in real time online
  • felt we should be uploading video content both to our own site and YouTube (they admit their views on this had changed over the day)

The day finished with us going on a tour of an area that the Museum is thinking about turning into a new media space. And after that we thanked them, gave each school a certificate and finished!

Thanks so much for all your efforts as we now have a goldmine of information we can use when developing our new website and other digital technologies.

E-kids’ college: morning session

What is it like to learn using computers and digital technologies and what do we think about the web? You can do anything, go anywhere in the world, and do anything unexpected and find anything. Web is about bringing things together and mixing them (people and things). Web opens new doors and new discoveries. Finding unexpected things, using shortcuts, learning more about how to use it. The internet is big, lots of stuff to discover and find out. Wild and unexpected and creative.

Next we went on a visit – one to the Palaeontology collection and one to the Museum's search and discover area. We were curious to find out how objects in the Museum could be made more interesting by supplementing them through digital technologies. All ideas were great and really useful. Some from my group were:

  • An interactive collection space where you click on a cupboard, drawer etc and then have objects to explore
  • 3D mapping of objects that you could rotate and explore further

We also got them to complete a survey with ten of their friends before they came here. The survey asked them questions about what they do online in order to compare to data we have collected from adults in Australia and the US. I'm still working on that! They also completed the sentence: Not being able to access the web is like not being able to ..., and here's some of what they said:

  • Walk, breathe, talk, eat, survive, socialise
  • Get access to water
  • Open a chest
  • Get an education
  • Access a whole new world
  • Go to school
  • Wear clothes and be fashionable
  • See the sun
  • Travel around the world, explore my inner self or broaden my horizon
  • Read a simple book

The final activity we did this morning was to think about websites b y looking at a site called ShowMe. This got a really bad review unfortunately and they felt that the site was developed by older people who weren't in touch with them ... Since they didn't like it we asked them to show us what sites they did like. Two sites from my group were FreeRice, where you learn about vocabulary/words while contributing to a good cause. They loved the colours and clean design of that site too. The other was MiniClip Games, for storing games which they felt was really well-organised, easy to find the games and fun as well.

One thing that struck me as they talked was that they felt the Museum's site was the place where we should store our content, videos, images and so on, not necessarily YouTube, Flickr and other places. They felt we should separate ourselves from what they perceive as fun sites – I'm not sure about this myself and is something that I'll be exploring further.

E-kids’ College

It's an exciting day for us here at the Museum. Around 24 students from schools across NSW are attending the second of our Kids' Colleges. This one is looking at digital technologies, how young people are using the web and to explore how e-learning relate to museums and young people. I'll attempt to blog as we go with my impressions so this may be a long and fragmented post ...

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Timing and pace of museum education visits

This question from Cathy Burke (UK): Dear Lynda, Susan Groundwater-Smith suggested I contact you to see if you know of any studies that have examined matters of timing and pace in the way that museum educators organised the experience of children visiting museums - especially on children's views on or experience of this - I am involved with a project that has generated this question at Manchester Art Gallery here in the UK. Looking for suitable literature. Feels like it is an important issue but I am finding it difficult to find relevant studies.

Hi Cathy. I don't know of any studies about this actually. A good resource is the Visitor Studies Group email alert where you can post a question. You could also look at Janette Griffin's thesis on school visits and museums, especially the lit review. It is available online at this link (I think!). If it doesn't work then go to the home page, search for University of Technology and her name and it should pop up. You could also email Janette (her details are on the UTS website).

There have been many general studies of timing in museums which may also be a good place to start. The Methodology chapter of my thesis has relevant lit and references (scroll down the page and it's there as a pdf).

I'd be really interested in what you find - can you let us all know via the blog please?

Education sector and museum domain workshop

Attended this roundtable today organised by the Le@rning Federation through the Curriculum Corporation. Was a large gathering of museum representatives and folks from various education domains. Really productive discussion and I learned lots about how different education domains access content through their own learning portals. This presents issues for institutions who may need to get their content accepted by a huge range of education jurisdictions, not only the state system but providers like the Catholic Education system. It was interesting to hear from Charles Morgan from Tasmania who described how the learning objects are actually used in the classroom, and this brought alive the TLF process to me. Tim Hart from Museum Victoria raised incredibly important issues around museum and digitisation and working with organisations like TLF. The points I took away were:

  • Museums need to standardise process in order to play together in the digital space (what a great quote!)
  • How much have museums learned about what they're doing online?
  • Too focused on creating physical exhibitions (I may have put my own bias on this comment, don't know if that's what he actually said!)
  • Currently we all go it alone too much
  • We are at a point where we can combine resources for people to access online – for example why not a search that throws back an artwork, an object, a book, a piece of ephemera, and archival film and so on across all our collections?

To me the issue of metadata and standards are the most critical one facing the sector. When I raised the issue of how the various domains will deal with the future of the web and social networks and the way students learn and interact in the future, I found out that this actually won't be a problem as long as the metadata is right – we need to be able to map a common authentification according to Seb (I don't know what that really means but I'm sure someone's onto it!).

The wrap-up of the workshop was asking for one salient point from each working group. These were (from my perspective):

  • Uncoordinated, ad hoc and disparate nature of what's out there – infrastructure, content, uses of material, therefore need system to facilitate sharing of resources
  • Utilises Web 2.0 tools, enable museum staff to interact with users and facilitate teachers and students able to tell their own stories and interpretations of objects
  • How to deal with the richness and vastness of the data, complications of findings and searching
  • Multiplicity of portals, brokerage arrangements makes for unnecessary levels of complication – need a national shared portal
  • Students want to be producers and creators using the resources of museums and tool s of Web 2.0 while still tied to curriculum outcomes and assessment
  • Sustainable process for cultural institutions to develop their own content for teachers in the future
  • Sustainability will need to come through collaboration
  • New signposts and new directions – look at the national statements of learning as a starting point? New roles and ways of learning – how to resource? How to digitise? How to prioritise? What are the measures of success? Where will mobile technologies fit?

Afternoon was a symposium. First paper Pedagogy and digital content: findings from three years evaluation of TLF online curriculum content by Professor Peter Freebody, University of Sydney. His report will be on TLF website end of the month. Key points for me that are relevant to what the Museum's doing:

  • Effective ICT use and integration: committed leadership to here and now and building up of skills over time; a champion; growing social networks of people working together without having to blaze the trail themselves; a working plan that involved personnel and resources; well-directed and high quality resources; lot of old pedagogies going on around new technologies
  • One finding from school visits was that often school leaders deal with procedural issues rather than curriculum issues (this is very relevant – focusing on process over what you're actually there to be doing...)

Several niggles I had – I didn't get a sense of what the actual experience of teachers and students were? The processes of evaluation, while I accept they need to be long-term and rigorous have the potential to be left behind –by the time you've disseminated the findings the audience has actually move on. I also have problems with language used around "mature" users and waiting – I think this is rather paternalistic – who's to define what mature practice is? It needs to be end-user defined, not defined by the researcher?? Guess I'll need to read the report.

Professor Stephen Heppell
Transforming practice – what (else) does it take? Points:

  • Writing policies can't keep up with the pace of change
  • Now we have lots of social space and social spaces to put stuff, we have mashups that join things together
  • The gadgets have real scale, globality and ubiquity (the iTouch is a good example)
  • Question – what haven't we got that learning needs? We haven't got identity; we haven't got time; no certainty of longevity; ability to annotate as you go; narrative layers and ability to link/join threads together (shiftspace is starting to do threading)
  • There is not a shortage of content anymore – the world is awash with good stuff, but would be better if could thread them together, annotate them, narrate them
  • We are in a learning age (not an information or knowledge age – that's already there) – what a great opportunity!
  • Asked children what does being literate mean? Answer manage a community in Facebook; upload a video to YouTube; edit a Wikipedia entry; choose a safe online payment site; subscribe to a podcast; turn predictive text on/off on a fone; manage a group's Flickr account; vote in an online poll; comment on a concern site
  • The death of education and the dawn of learning – all the boxes and rigidity are going. Judgements will be made by the learner in future

This was one of the most stimulating, fun and useful talks about the future of the web I have ever heard I must say. There was so much more he said that I haven't blogged about but I will be incorporating them into a paper I'm writing about the organisational change process in museums through the implementation of Web 2.0.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Impact of museum health/well-being programs

May Redfern asks: I am currently writing a paper for a conference on measuring cost/benefit analysis for museums delivering health and well being agendas (part of the broader social value remit). I was therefore just wondering if you know of examples of best practice in this area? At the moment I'm focusing on the UK's MLA's generic social outcomes framework and the new economics foundation's measurements. It would be great if I could add some more 'real life' examples of health/well-being policy delivery and evaluation in a museum setting.

Hi May. This is a tough one. I don't know of any specific evaluations and programs but I'm sure there must be some in the UK especially given their social inclusion agenda. Maybe ask via the Visitor Studies Group – they have a great email list.

The other person who springs to mind is Lois Silverman who has researched museums as therapy and come up with some interesting findings. She has published quite a lot and a quick Google search brings up various pieces she has done. Lois also has a chapter in the Richard Sandell edited book Museums, Society and Social Inequality that may be a good start. Last I heard she was at Indiana University in the Department of Parks, Recreation etc, but have looked through their (frustrating!) site and can't uncover anything further.

Good luck with your abstract – is it for the Inclusive Museum conference next June?

Summative Evaluation

Anonymous asked: Dear Lynda, Does visitors book and feedback form that we found at the end of exhibition falls under summative evaluation?

Hi Anonymous. In my view visitors' books and feedback forms, when used strategically, can be a very valuable and easy form of summative evaluation. For example, we used feedback forms for a controversial exhibition, and by posting up others' forms coupled with media clippings found that we had a series of conversation happening – visitor-to-museum and visitor-to-visitor. Feedback forms can also help gather demographic information if you don't have the resources to do a targeted survey.

For more information about summative evaluation see the information sheet called Exhibition Evaluation on my website, and also the paper outlining the history and future of audience research that I have posted to my wiki – it is the one called Evaluation, Research and Communities of Practice: Program Evaluation in Museums (go down the page a bit).

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Biodiversity Exhibition Evaluations

This question from Georgina Bishop, Natural History Museum, London: Hi Lynda, Hope all is well with you. I am gathering some information on Biodiversity exhibitions as we are in the beginning stages of developing a brief for one that will happen as part of the NHM's masterplanning. I think that you also have a Biodiversity exhibition and I wondered if it would be possible for you to send me any front-end research you did as part of this.

Hi Georgina and I am well thanks! I have chosen to blog my response so others can have access.

We did a series of studies for our former Biodiversity: Life Supporting Life exhibition as follows:

  • Frontend evaluation report, 1997: concepts, themes, prior understanding and interpretive approaches
  • Formative evaluation report 1 1997: concepts, population issues and interpretive strategies
  • Formative evaluation report 2, 1998: topics and concepts, merchandise and exhibition title
  • Formative evaluation report 3, 1998: text, label and graphics testing
  • Summative evaluation, 1998

These files have now posted on my wiki at a new page called Evaluation reports. When reading them you need to keep in mind the time they were conducted. I think many of the topics and understandings that we tested at that time would be vastly different now. For example, the issue of climate change was not really even thought about then. We have done work on climate change which I have blogged about here, so I would also reference that work when you are looking at biodiversity.

There is also a project called Who Cares about the Environment? run by the NSW Department of Environment and Conservation that has been tracking attitudes to, knowledge of and skills and behaviour of adults regarding the environment over many years and is worth checking out. I'm sure there have been studies of this kind in the UK too. The Pew Internet/Exploratorium report The Internet as a Resource for News and Information about Science is also relevant as it showed that 20% Americans used the internet to find out information about science, including environment and climate change issues (second only to television at 41%) and this has implications for the conjunction of physical exhibitions and what museums provide on the web I believe.

Good luck.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Evaluating online audiences

This question from Martin Bazley and Nicky Boyd, London via the Visitor Studies Group email alert: We are doing some research into online audiences for the London Museums Hub. Have you done any evaluation of your online audiences, or do you know of any other data or research? They also detail a range of other questions around audience and methodology.

Martin and Nicky, this is a really growing field of evaluation and we have been active in this area over the past year or so. As part of her internship here, Mel Broe did literature review of online audiences and evaluation which she posted here on my blog. I also posted about a study I did with teachers and students and the web which has a series of extra comments and links. I also presented a paper with some very initial work on digital audiences and museums to a bunch of interesting folks in Tubingen, Germany, just last week. I posted that paper on my wiki (go to the second one). I am developing this paper more as we do further research with online audiences aged 18-30 (which is being presented to us today) and teenagers (via an e-kids' college we are running here in two weeks time). I promise to blog about these projects further.

I also suggest you go to the Museums and Web search papers site and have a look there.

One (of the many) outstanding evaluators in Australia, Carolyn Meehan from Museum Victoria in Melbourne, has done very interesting online work and you could email her.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Lifelong Learning Symposium

What a full day of fascinating papers delivered by passionate people! I took a wad of notes, so will report here on the main points as I saw them.
David's paper was (as always) a broad sweep of the intellectual and the practical. He suggested that we need to tackle barriers of poverty, education disadvantage, disabilities and other issues facing older peole. He reminded us that museums can still be seen as elitist places and that we need to cater for all audiences and not spend too much time always segmenting.
The thing I enjoyed abut Marie's talk was the emphasis on learning as pleasure, fun and enjoyment - words we often forget to relate to musuems! The NGI is running some amazing programs, not just for older audiences - one I think is really innovative is the young mothers tours.
Des's talk ranged widely, reminding us that often with ageing we focus on the negative rather than the positive. The ageing population shouldn't be seen as a problem to be solved but as a "demographic bounty" to be used. He cited many, many examples of creativity in older life - apart from artists and classical composers we also saw images of Mick Jagger and Paul McCartney! The three aspects regarding ageing he mentioned were:
  • the positives - the creativity, wisdom and life experience of older people
  • inter-individual variability and the need to have a wide palette - all older people are not the same and there is more variation between two 80 year olds as between two 40 year olds
  • reduced reserve - therefore providing spaces to relax, recharge and contemplate are required
He reminded us that the majority of older people are fit, heatlty and contributing, however those that are sick do tend to have more complex health issues. He also gave us a nice quote (didn't get the author but worth reproducing): "If you design for the old you include the young, if you design for the young you exclude the old". The overall message I got was to have a complex palette on offer and design for all.
Catherine's talk on vounteering was full of information. The remarks she made about the 21st century volunteer were very salient - that they are looking for an experience and added-value and that there are so many more opportunities to volunteer now (I have seen the increase of volunteer tourism for example). She challenged us to remember that volunteers are changing so are we trying to fit them into a 20th century volunteer model or are we trying to change?
There were other papers and a great discussion at the end - too much to digest now, but overall a great success I feel.
Just a reminder that my paper is here

Friday, November 09, 2007

Lifelong Learning Conference Roundtable

Attended this session yesterday and found it really inspiring. There certainly is a lot of innovative work and thinking going on in Ireland about all audiences, not just older ones.
There was quite a focus on reminiscence, which is something that really interests me as it isn't dealt with in Australia at all I feel, although on reflection some of the digital stories we are doing with Indigenous communities and objects is getting there. The work of the Age Exchange in London was mentioned as a good resource, particularly for developing reminiscence kits.
Another thing that struck me was the work at the Ulster Museum and the Ireland Museum of Modern Art where they used older groups to actually produce product for them in terms of the reminiscence boxes at Ulster and various programming initiatives at IMMA. The poetry/writers group that uses the National Gallery of Ireland was also very inspiring, and often brought a tear to the eye (actually everything about the Gallery is incredibly impressive and has given me a lot to think about in terms of programming at my Museum).
Seems that collaboration is the key, while also considering (and planning for) sustainabilty after grant fudidng finishes. One of the challenges raised was that museums need to develop outreach programs for a variety of community groups, not just a traditional focus on schools. I think there is a lesson there for our Museum in a Box program - some of the potential audiences discussed at the roundtable were offenders; those with dementia; ethnic minorities; users of mental health services; those that are housebound (not just the elderly or with disabilities - think young mums) and intergenerational groups.
All in all a fine day, topped with a wonderful dinner in a beautiful part of the gallery.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Knowledge Media Research Centre, Tubingen, Germany

Spending some time learning about the innovative projects that are happening at the Knowledge Media Research Centre. One that I hadn't heard about was the project being undertaken by Lars, who is using video technologies for students to record what they are learning. He is also developing a electronic tracking system which I think is really exciting – it allows people who are tracking/observing visitors in exhibitions to use a PDA and set of icons/symbols that they click on when visitors are doing something (e.g. pointing, reading, talking, etc). These are also time-stamped so you can record what they are doing when and for how long. Lars is using open source software in designing the tracking system and hopes to make it available for others to test and give feedback.

Spoke with Daniel who is looking at mobile technologies and museums. He has co-authored a paper which has promised to send me and I'll post the link. Eva also mentioned a good paper from the ICHIM conference that summarised what museums were doing in the areas of handheld technologies. I think it's this paper, although there are some other good papers on this website! Also met Eva who is working on this project, as well as Christine doing work on discussion kiosks and controversial topics; and Mika who is working on film and inferences. Mika isn't part of the museum component of the KMRC but I still think what she's doing has relevance for us.

It's interesting as they have a whole lab here where they can set up experiments using small exhibitions and testing out technological solutions to measuring what visitors learn from an exhibition. I tried out the i-tracker which was this cool set of glasses with built-in camera that records what the visitor is looking at. Used in conjunction with other tools, such as observation and interviews, is a potential way to do some evaluation. They have only tried it a few times however, and seems to me a neat idea but I'm unsure of the practicalities of it (let alone the cost).

Overall a really useful visit and hope to have more to do with these researchers (plus come back to the lovely city of Tubingen).

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Presentations: Tubingen (Germany) and National Gallery of Ireland (Dublin)

Am currently in transit to Germany (via Ireland!) to visit colleagues at the Knowledge Media Research Centre, who are undertaking a major research project: Learning in museums: the role of media for the recontextualisation of objects. The project ‘... aims to explore the potential of digital media for learning in natural science museums and exhibitions’. They are holding their first workshop later this week called Learning in Museums: International Positions. I’m giving a pre-workshop lecture called What does learning mean in museums and the digital environment? I’ll be presenting data from my thesis and some initial work I’ve been doing on “ladders of participation” and what Australians are doing online.
Will also be a good opportunity to find out about their progress on their many projects, which have synergy with the work we are doing under both the New Literacy, New Audiences project and our Social Media in Museums ARC grant.
On Wednesday I travel back to Dublin to be a keynote speaker at the National Gallery of Ireland’s Education Symposium Museums, Galleries and Lifelong Learning: are museums doing enough to attract older audiences?
Both my papers have been uploaded on my wiki at this link: audience-research » Conference papers.
It’s a cold and rainy day here in Dublin as I’m waiting for my flight to Frankfurt (after a long flite from Sydney...). Looking forward to a hot shower!

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Young people and museums

Came across a query about young people and museums through Facebook of all places! Have done quite a few studies with this group which are published here on my website. An interesting study we did several years ago now was with Indigenous young people and museums – that report can be downloaded here. One of the key outcomes from this for me was that young people wanted to engage with museums on deeper levels than just as visitors. They wanted to work with the collections, work in the public program areas developing and running programs for all audiences and even as meet and greet people! One of their major bugbears was not seeing people like them working in museums, therefore felt unwelcome and alienated.

I also conducted several studies with Professor Susan Groundwater-Smith called the Museum I'd like. Happy to send on any information to interested people. Now that I've thought of it again will experiment with positing examples of their work to Flickr at some point. We are repeating this exercise this year with students aged around 12-18 years and their use of digital technologies.

I also think we need to keep abreast of the kinds of studies happening around teens and the internet, as the ways they engage with content, their peers and "formal" institutions will radically change based on this new form of learning. The blog for the New Literacy, New Audiences project contains many posts on this topic. Demos also did an important paper on this issue which can be found here: Demos | Publications | Their Space. I think that report is essential reading.

I must admit though getting tired of the focus on young people when it is older audiences that are increasing and should be the focus in the future in my view! Here's the report of the Older audiences and museums study we did in 2002. I'm giving a paper on this very topic at the Lifelong Learning in Museums and Galleries conference at the National Gallery of Ireland next week. Watch this space as I post my impressions as well as the paper I'm giving.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Visitors as collaborators?

This email just in from Jay Rounds:


Just got my copy of MUSEUM REVOLUTIONS, and the first thing I read was your article. Very interesting! Great idea to ask visitors about their own concepts of learning; the results proved very useful. I'm very intrigued by your question "do museums facilitate visitor learning despite themselves?" Have you developed that thought in more detail? My own take is that things make more sense when we move away from thinking of museums and visitors as if they were collaborating on a common task, and think of them having different jobs that intersect in ways that are very important, but strictly limited.


Lovely to hear from you Jay and glad you found the article useful. Since that paper I moved my thinking ahead quite substantially when I submitted my final thesis. Copies of various chapters and a more developed paper can be found on my wiki. Chapter 7 is probably the most useful summary of my work.

I found in my second stage that visitors played three different, yet simultaneous roles – museum expert, visit manager and learner facilitator. I think that's getting close to what you're asking? I do think that the emphasis on visitors as collaborators however is worthy of some further thought – certainly in my work around the virtual world that's one of the conclusions I'm coming to. I wonder if that will then manifest itself in the physical museum sense? I alluded to this in my thesis but am currently doing further research into these ideas. We had an initial discussion about this on the fresh+new(er) blog.

I also found that exhibitions impacted on visitors' learning identities in various ways, with some becoming even more convinced about how they did not want to learn in a museum after visiting a specific exhibition.

For those of you interested, more details about Museum Revolutions can be found on the University of Leicester website.

Thanks again Jay and love your work!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Research on Discovery Centres

This question from Claire Baddeley a PhD student from University of Canberra:

I'm currently undertaking a PhD on the history, development, philosophy and management of 'Discovery Centres' at Australian museums. The project aims to investigate the role of 'Discovery Centres' in Australian museums, their purpose, and how they contribute (or don't contribute) to the visitor's museum 'experience'. The research aims to look at 'discovery centres' as a microcosm reflecting contemporary issues faced by museums (such as those regarding access, education/learning, use of collections & technology and operating as 'hybrid' organizations, combining not for profit and private sector roles). Given this, the main focus of the research is on 'discovery centres' as an aspect of the operation and role of museums in the 21st century.

I am writing to you to enquire as to whether you may be aware of any research or studies that have been undertaken on 'discovery centres' in museums (in relation to audiences)? There seems to be little written about what does and doesn't occur in 'discovery centres' in relation to audiences, why they are becoming increasingly popular in museums and how 'success' is measured in these centres (beyond visitor numbers, of course!). Any advice, suggestions or details of researchers/museum staff to contact that you could provide me would be much appreciated.

Claire, I know that Moya McFadyen from Museum Victoria did a world-wide tour of discovery centres. Her report is really worth reading (I'll give you her email details separately). At the Australian Museum I have done several studies of our popular search & discover which clearly demonstrates that visitors of all ages and type love these kinds of spaces and appreciate the role they have in learning. Regarding their popularity in museums, to me it is about museum staff finally responding to research and theoretical perspectives about how people learn. No longer do visitors want passive experiences where they are told stuff (actually they never really did!). Visitors consistently say they want choice and control over their visit experiences and discovery centre models meet these needs very well. Go here for some papers on museum learning and to this wiki for my thesis on museum visitors' learning.

Another place to talk to is CSIRO Discovery in Canberra. I was quite impressed with most of it when I visited in May this year and they may have undertaken some research during their planning.

There is also a Case study of The Discovery Room by Judith White at the Smithsonian on the ExhibitFiles website. Seeing this reminded me of a my favourite museum quote ever – too long to reproduce here so the reference is Skramstad, H. (1999). An Agenda for American Museums in the Twenty-First Century. Daedalus, 128(3) and look at pages 113-114.

Other ideas or leads anyone?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Museum & gallery services QLD State Conference 2007

Am attending the M&GSQ conference, 3Cs: Contemporary Collecting & Communication, over the weekend and thought I would post some impressions. Yesterday I gave a Masterclass called Using visitor research to plan quality public programs. Seemed to go well and got some very positive feedback. My PowerPoint presentation can be downloaded on my wiki - audience-research » Audience Research Articles (go to the bottom of the page). I have also added some links about measuring impact of museums and some projects I was involved with plus some papers I pulled off the web.

On Saturday there was a plenary session on the theme of cities and museums featuring D Lynn McRainey, from the Chicago History Museum (who incidentally was at my Masterclass yesterday!). Lynn's paper was titled Creating connections to the city: its stories, people and places. She talked about how museums should be thinking strategically about their missions and creating new relationships between museums and their audiences. Lynn's presentation was fantastic and very thought-provoking. She outlined the process that the Chicago Historical Museum (CHM) took as part of its redevelopment which was completed just on a year ago. There were four major areas of focus:

  1. A strategic direction for education
  2. Conversations with professionals
  3. Detailed audience research
  4. Experiment with new programs

The CHM also developed a set of guiding principles that underpinned all they did:

  • History is about everyone and takes place everywhere
  • CHM is about the entire city of Chicago
  • Finding a personal connection leads an individual to value history and seek it throughout their life
  • Purpose of CHM is to turn to the past to understand the present and envision the future
  • Offerings provide access for many audiences through a rich array of approaches
  • CHM shares responsibility with other civic leaders for health and well-being of the city and residents

The CHM program was reactive and not looking at possibilities – having a quarterly calendar made them too reactive and static. It prevented innovation and they realised they needed to have a core offering but also build in flexibility.

From the audience research and other consultations they also developed some traits for good learning experiences at CHM:

  • Be fiercely Chicago
  • Let audiences into the historical process and tools historians use – they really want to know this and engage with it
  • Make it special
  • Be nimble and flexible

Final thought – provide engaging experiences and flexible formats.

From the session called Beyond visitor numbers I got the following:

  • Need to develop a common, public language of what value is and how to describe it
  • Intrinsic values (such as joy, discovery, absorption, etc) are hard to measure and report on but are highly valued by audiences
  • Contingent evaluation is maybe the way to go – look broadly at stakeholders, users and non-users
  • Call ourselves more-than-profits, not just non-profits?
  • Use personas (or the digital stories I'm doing) as ways to demonstrate value?
  • Perhaps the appropriate language of value may be that of the visitors themselves??

Seb's talk on Day Two, Highlights of digital media in museum and gallery communication, was also great and very comprehensive. Have just posted some quick points and links.

Why do it? To increase reach, improve access, listen to users, see knowledge as process not product.

People are already out there talking about museums. Why? 'De-professionlisation' of product development coupled with broadband getting cheaper and faster. They are "museum fans". This will mean decentralisation of our content and our brand. People don't start at the front page of a website, 84% begin an information search with a search engine.

What are museums doing?

  • Exploring new media platforms, examples of MOMA and Walker Art Center, TATE online portal
  • Colonising networking sites – MOCA has set up a MySpace page to connect directly with music fans; museums and museum professionals are on Facebook, also the ExhibitFiles example as way to share information
  • Utilising existing content communities, e.g.Brooklyn Museum: Community photos on Flickr and YouTube of their events and set up a Flickr group
  • Building official replicas in virtual worlds
  • Blogging for more non-formal ways of communicating
  • Community contributed content, e.g. of I like museums (a great site by the way!), NZ example of community-created wiki to connect to each other and the institution
  • Work with audiences to better classify collections – example here, McCord Museum games to encourage tagging
  • Exploring atomised content – making a site our of content from other sites, e.g. Rijksmuseum widget
  • About improving digital collection access – went through the development of OPAC 2.0 as an example of bridging a 'semantic gap' between how museums describe and classify collections and how our audiences describe them

Future directions: People becoming location sensitive, increased use of GPS and mapping, new ways of exploring and experiencing data. People will increasingly be using maps as a search tool (e.g., what does the PHM have in its' collection that comes from my suburb?)


  • Need to develop ways of working ethically
  • Problematises the old models of ownership and copyright
  • Trust and the decentralised brand
  • Search and access and other technologies not publicly owned
  • Only 16% of globe are online, there is a rural/urban divide (but I'm wondering how this will change??)

For more information go to the fresh+new blog. Also a useful post with relevant links here - museums and web 2.0 blog post

Thursday, August 30, 2007

London musings ...

Had a wonderful set of meetings yesterday and learned heaps. Made all kinds of promises for web links, etc so decided to just do a blog post to put them all together. These are my impressions folks, so please feel free to comment and correct!

My first meeting was with Xerxes, Stuart, Susie and Catherine at the British Museum. The BM is at the early stages of implementing an audience strategy, including ways to more closely integrate audience research across the BM, and the use of cross-divisional project teams in planning exhibitions. We had a wide-ranging discussion about the role of audience research, measuring learning, and I finally understand how to use audience segmentation (thanks for that Xerxes!). The way the Interpretation Unit is set-up where staff take on roles of audience advocate and visitor research, among other things, was really interesting with the potential to shake the BM up over the next few years – one organisation to watch I think. I was also fortunate to catch up with Stuart to talk all things web and their plans for e-commerce and online access. Stuart is also very interested in the ideas surrounding online learning, which was great to hear.

Here are the links I promised you:

audience-research » Audience Research Articles – scroll down this page to download the paper
Evaluation, Research and Communities of Practice: Program Evaluation in Museums. This paper outlines the history of audience research in museums, what it's all about and what are the future challenges

audience-research » Museum Learning – here's where various chapters from my thesis can be downloaded. Chapter 2 is the learning literature review and Chapter 7 outlines the major findings, how they relate to the literature and what they mean for museums

Resources page on my website – contains the pdf file Writing Text and Labels (go down the page a bit)

Stuart, here are the blog addresses/posts I promised:

Introduction to museums and Web 2.0 – my post about what Web 2.0 is with relevant links

fresh + new blog – Seb's blog about digital media and museums

Museum 2.0 – Nina Simon's blog about museums, web 2.0, design and many other gems

Post about social technographics on fresh+new. I bought this report and it was worth the money, we're doing a similar study in Australia

M&W paper on web users – proposes a useful typology of online learners

Next was a detailed visit to the Natural History Museum. Catching up on gossip with Michael, sharing various Facebook addiction stories, lunch with Emma and Georgina was followed by a tour through the systema metropolis exhibition with Alice. I have published my review of this exhibition on the ExhibitFiles website, but am unable to upload images for some reason (I think due to my hotel's web access), so I'll add them later.

A very invigorating two-hour seminar followed with a range of staff from learning, interpretation, content, multimedia and web who kept me on my toes! Again a wide-ranging discussion with a focus on how to get findings acted on, different methods for doing research, budgets, using consultants, all things web and the future and, finally, where best to place an audience research function (my answer – needs to be separate and report to a senior level to keep objectivity and enable research to feed in to the institution at the highest levels). The seminar was taped and I might post a short excerpt if I'm feeling brave (and have not been too much my usual tactless elf!). Finally, after birthday cake, I consumed several lagers at the Hoop chatting to some of the curators feeling I could have been back in Sydney – same issues different museums!

Here are the website addresses I promised (additional to above):

AMARC: Australian Museum Audience Research Centre – my website with various links and resources

Audience Research blog

Audience Research wiki

I also need to post a link to my Visitor Voice post on the New Literacy, New Audiences blog but it seems to have disappeared! Will follow that up.

Thanks to all for a great day! See you on Facebook J.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

ICOM 2007 Day 4 morning

What am amazing morning of papers ranging from Austria; Mexico; Greece; Italy; Sweden; Taiwan; Scotland; Germany; Australia just to name a few. My challenge will be to post 1-2 major points from each paper (that is if I don't get distracted by that Facebook!!). Wish me luck!

Research Session

  • Science with all Senses – gender and science in the making (ZOOM Museum, Austria)
    • Both males and females are involved in working with the children, and they come from various backgrounds apart from science
  • Learning from the best: success factors for effective audience research (Eva Reussner, Germany)
    • Challenge to use the evaluations findings – responding to and taking notice of them in planning
    • Identified 12 success factors – including integration, acceptance, senior management support, audience orientation, research utility, research quality, communication, responsibility, understanding, readiness to learn, involvement, resources (on a sliding scale – so integration is the most important and then down from there)
    • Success of audience research not only depends on the researcher but needs the commitment and involvement of senior management and staff
  • Using generic learning outcomes (GLO) as a strategic tool to evaluate impact of learning (Jenny Fuchs, Scotland)
    • Beyond the Palace Walls exhibition used with the evaluation to inform the development of new galleries and an evaluation (200 questionnaires, 20 pre- and post-interviews) using the GLO framework
    • One of the questions used "Was there anything in the exhibition that surprised you?" – I like that one!
    • Some learning outcomes difficult to measure in informal settings
    • GLOs provide a common language to talk about learning; help steer projects that focus on the learner; helps focus evaluation
    • Limitations: some GLOs difficult to measure; responses are self-reflective; measures immediate intent; no measure of long-term impact (although I believe that these are all able to be addressed)
    • I'm very interested in the GLO framework – check it out here Inspiring Learning for All
    • Jenny's presentation can be found here
  • Training of museum personnel in Lombardy's museums (Italy)
    • Umm, sorry, this was in French and I forgot to get my headset thing ...
  • Museums, universities and schools (Athens)
    • Working together with teachers shows that learning outcomes are better for the students – teachers can play a very important role in reading, using and enjoying museums of all different types
  • An exploratory study of learning styles of visitors in the Museum of World Religions (Wanchen Liu, Taipei)
    • Used Kolb's theory of learning styles – divergers, accommodators, assimilators, convergers
    • Important to provide different points of access/learning styles to enable visitors learn about religion
  • Education, learning and leisure (Holger Hoge, University of Oldenburg)
    • Talked to visitors about their concepts of learning: first thing they said was acquisition of knowledge
    • After visiting a museum they are relaxed, satisfied, tired...
    • Museums need to be aware of free-choice learning and how it fits with leisure
    • Here's his website IAEA - International Association of Empirical Aesthetics


  • Pushing the pedagogical boundaries at South Australian Museum (Chris Nobbs)
    • Presented a range of really interesting educational and outreach programs based on different learning principles
  • Do heritage museums preclude visitors' constructing their own narratives (Niza Levavi, Israel)
    • Historical museums presented narratives as closed texts with no opportunities to talk about different points of view – even if the museum says they are doing it needs to be better incorporated into how they plan their programs from the very start
  • Needs and desires, the evaluation of an open-ended exhibit (Silvia and Leticia, Mexico)
    • Talked about the exhibition and the range of methods used to evaluate it – will post the presentation to CECA site (here) when Silvia gives it to me
  • Training for museum education and learning ... (Anne Liden, Sweden)
    • Reported on a range of student projects in areas of diversity and immigration – some of the students were also from these groups
    • Students from immigrant backgrounds have many challenges when studying in universities and schools – this is also a challenge for museums
  • Cultural heritage, lifelong learning and social economy (Henrik Zipsane, Sweden)
    • Problems – what is lifelong learning? Seems to be about employability when defined by groups such as UNESCO
    • Many discussions suggest lifelong learning has its natural end at retirement – he believes (as do I) that it goes from cradle to grave
    • Elderly people are over-represented in museums in areas of genealogy research, visitors and volunteers
    • Focussed on learning to learn in their research – regard the third age as another learning cycle and that heritage institutions have a lot to offer for elderly people and their learning

That's it from me at ICOM/CECA'07 folks. This afternoon is the Market of Ideas and I'll kill myself trying to blog that! Instead, look at the program to see what you missed.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

ICOM 2007 Day 3 Morning session

Gave my talk this morning – nerve-wracking, yet satisfying at the same time. Here's the links to my paper and other things mentioned in my talk:

I was truly honoured to share the stage with Elaine Gurian, one of the leading museum thinkers and a really nice person who has been very supportive of my work – thanks Elaine! I have to spend some time digesting what Elaine was talking about as well as our discussion so I'll post something later. I did place all the links to sites that Elaine and I mentioned on the What's new: August 2007 page of the CECA website.

Then had to rush on over to INTERCOM to give my paper about Museums and cultural diversity in Australia. Was slightly stressed at this pint as I was the last speaker after a looong morning, but all seemed to go well. Have posted my PowerPoint presentation as a pdf file on this wiki here (wasn't able to post the presentation here unfortunately. All papers from INTERCOM will be on their website.

ICOM 2007 Day 2 Afternoon session

Was going to go to the NATHIST group this pm (the natural history museums group). Their program sounds fantastic with several Aussies presenting. Unfortunately I didn't get there as my lunch only arrived at 2pm!! I was disappointed to miss Janet Carding's talk Can natural history museums change the world? A view from Sydney. However, I know that she would be talking about a discussion held at the Museum about the Tom Hennes Hyperconnections article in Curator. Some of that discussion can be found on this wiki - audience-research » Hyperconnection article.

Pity, but luck was with me as I proceeded to have a great lunch with Eilean Hooper-Greenhill and Graham Black. We ranged over the world of Web 2.0 and what this means for museums. I promised that I would give them some links to further information so are two:


Monday, August 20, 2007

ICOM 2007 Day 2 Morning Session

Spent this morning at CECA. Have to take notes quickly so some will be abbreviated – hope you all understand!

Rick West, who I have long admired, gave the first keynote address at CECA. Called Native
America in Museums: The Passing of the Talking Stick, Rick discussed issues around who gets to talk at museums and the concepts of authority and representation. Change in view to idea that communities need to be involved in the work of the museum and in telling their own stories. Scholars have written that need to move museums beyond one-dimensional representation to multiple ones to fully represent the many diverse communities. He feels that US museums are well on their way to a position of shared authority. Motivation came from within the museum community itself, moved away from the metaphorical "temple". All people with legitimate claim may not view museum material in same ways as museum. Widening of concept of authority means museums are becoming different places. Programs based on shared authority widens museum's scope, with a direct benefit to the visitors. Museum as a true forum, gathering place for diverse views has a salutary impact on museums. Museums as forum draws it closer to the community of which it is a part. Becomes a public and civic space.

Experience of NMAI: Museum has a deep relationship with native peoples across North America who were involved in all aspects of development of the museum and shares authority with Native peoples. Five guiding principles for NMAI based on consultations with Native peoples:

  1. Community
  2. Locality – Indian land
  3. Vitality – we are here now
  4. Viewpoint – we know the world differently
  5. Voice – these are our stories

The next speaker was Martin Scharer from the Alimentarium, Vevey, who's paper title was Museums – places for merry discovery. Martin stated that he dislikes the term "learning" and that museums aren't places for learning (I beg to differ – see my thesis
J). Stated that people won't visit museums with boring learning materials – well, yeah! He also talked about the juxtaposition of boring learning and mindless entertainment. Again, he could read some work in my thesis on museums and dumbing down – it's on the wiki. I found the opposite: that visitors well-understood and appreciated the differences between learning, education and entertainment. One interesting part was the presentation of the different exhibition languages for enjoyment, knowledge, experience and thinking. We ran out of time which is a shame because I thought that could have been further explored.

The keynotes were followed by a panel discussing the key ideas of the morning. Cheers to Silvia Singer, one of the panellists, who stated that without the visitors museums are nothing! Objects are not the only way to showcase culture, many things are intangible and this shouldn't be dismissed. Bravo to you Silvia and great to see you here – you look terrific!

BTW I'm not being as good a blogger as I should be as I'm hanging out on Facebook – check me out Facebook | Lynda Kelly.

After morning coffee Graham Black from Nottingham Trent University gave a paper titled Creating a learning environment. It was a thrill to meet Graham as we had previously only corresponded via email when he was writing his wonderful book The Engaging Museum – check out more about Graham here. Going to take fast notes now:

  • When planning for engagement need to look at the whole visitor experience
  • Not just the responsibility of those with "learning" or "education" in their titles
  • Factors in developing a learning environment:
    • Provide stimulus to visit in first place – positive image, arriving expecting to engage
    • Keep visitors in right frame of mind – first impressions vital; create informal, user-friendly atmosphere; key role of FOH staff; minimise user effort
    • providing opportunities and support to engage – encourage reflection
    • Enable follow-up – potential of the web
  • Graham offered to email people his paper – so email him Graham Black

International Council of Museums General Conference 2007, Vienna

This conference (ICOM) is the second triennial I have attended. Traditionally these conferences are terrific, bringing together museum professionals from all around the world. There is a good Aussie contingent here, a couple of New Zealanders and a sprinkling from the Pacific region. It's been great to catch up with colleagues from Taiwan, UK, US, Canada, Netherlands, South America, Mexico, Korea, to name just a few! So far I have attended functions at INTERCOM (the committee of management) and the CECA Board meeting (CECA being the Committee for Education and Cultural Action).

Also took some time out to visit the Natural History Museum and Historical Museum. For this somewhat jaded museum-goer I was absolutely blown away by the natural history museum. The building is absolutely breathtaking and the dinosaur/fossils hall was really wonderful with many great ideas about how to inject some contemporary features into beautiful hisitorical showcases. The display of dinosaurs was stunning, also demonstrating some great interpretive features. Might try and do a separate post about that somewhere else if I get time.

Now I will attempt to blog this conference – have learned several tips from my colleague, the good Sister – which I will try and implement.

Watch this space!

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

University museums engaging university students

This question from Sebastian Moody:

Hello Lynda,
My name is Sebastian Moody I am a Masters student in Museum Studies at the University of Queensland. I have commenced a case study of how university museums engage with the wider student population.

I was hoping that you would be able to inform me about other research that has been done in this area.

Sebastian - I don't know of any studies in this area - maybe some of our university museums colleagues could advise?

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Measuring the impact of museums in their local communities

I have been asked to be a member of a steering committee established by Museums & Galleries NSW (mgNSW) to work on the Regional Audience Development Study. So how do we measure the impact of museums in their local communities? This is an issue that will continue to be of relevance to a broad range of museum folk across a range of institution types and sizes.

There have been two studies that I have been involved in that have looked at this issue from the local museum perspective. All the relevant papers and links from those studies can be viewed and downloaded on the measuring impact page on my audience research wiki. Some of the papers came from doing a simple Google search called "impact of museums", so there is a lot of available reference material.

I'd be interested in hearing about any other studies that people know of or have been involved in.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Audience Research Readings

Digital Eva asks: I'm wondering if there any precise and comprehensive guide of evaluation process available. At this point, the information that I have is just basic. Is the evaluation process in museum exhibits different than other kind of evaluation process?

Hi Eva, there are plenty of texts that relate to museum evaluation. I have noted some of them on this post, with a link to my website where there is a downloadable list of texts.

The best one to start with is Judy Diamond's book Practical Evaluation Guide: tools for museums and other informal educational settings (Walnut Creek: AltaMira Press, 1999) and the paper I wrote for the Journal of Archival Science which outlines the whole process and gives examples (and also has a very comprehensive reading list). I plan to post this paper to my wiki. George Hein's Learning in the Museum (London: Routledge, 1998) is also a good introduction to museum evaluation methods.

The evaluation processes used in museums are no different to those in general social and educational research, and any general methodology text is very applicable to refer to. When doing my doctorate I found Cohen and Manions' text Research Methods in Education (London: Routledge, 1994) the most useful as it outlines a huge range of methods/approaches that can be used in evaluation.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Climate Change and Museums

Fiona Cameron asked me about audience research we have done on the topic of climate change. We conducted several studies as part of a larger research project investigating future exhibition topics.

The first study in 2006 consisted of two quantitative surveys — one with an online sample of 538 respondents from the greater Sydney region (mix of visitors and non-visitors to museums and galleries); and one with 319 visitors to the Australian Museum. Climate Change was chosen as the preferred exhibiton topic by 21% of online respondents and by 22% of the onsite sample. It was of high interest to 39% of Australian Museum visitors and 26% of online respondents.

Why is this topic so appealing? A range of reasons were given by respondents:

* It’s an important subject that we all need to know about:
“I think climate change should be of interest to everybody because it is our future. Will we survive?”
“I think we need to know more about climate change as it’s already happening.”
“Topical and at the forefront of everyone’s attention. Will foster necessary public debate. Is of great interest to all ages and backgrounds.”

* It’s a topic that children need to be educated about:
“Climate change is an important issue and one that I could take my children to see and discuss.”
“Educating the community and my kids about this pressing issue so we can make immediate changes.

* There is a lot of misinformation around and we can trust the Museum to give us the real facts:
“I think we need to know more unbiased reasonably proven facts regarding climate change.”
“Climate change is very current and something that the whole world, and even more, needs more in-depth study, shown and interpreted for us normal people out here.”

* We need to know what we can do:
“… we all need to be made aware, with tangible examples, of what’s happening and how we can help.”
“Climate’s a very good indicator of the environment, must learn so we can save the planet before things go very wrong.”

The second study in 2007 consisted of focus groups with a range of target audiences to unpack the issues further. Again, climate change was clearly the most popular exhibition topic across all groups because:

* It’s an issue that’s become personal
* In the past 12 months, the issue has moved beyond the realm of science into the mainstream
* The sense of personal responsibility has started to hit home
* People are confused and overwhelmed – can’t trust politicians, industry or lobby groups
* With all the media coverage and THAT MOVIE, there is significant background knowledge, but much of it is contradictory, making the issue even more confusing!
* With so much conflicting information regarding climate change, audiences are craving an authority on the issue to clear things up once and for all, and assist them in adopting a stance

We found that participants felt the Museum was in a perfect position to be that authority, as audiences see us as:
* A trusted source of scientific information and not aligned to a political party, lobby group or big business partner:
"It’s a perfect fit for the Museum, it’s science!"
"I think the Museum has a great chance to be the authority on this issue, people trust the Museum and its science."

Some questions people wanted an exhibition to help them with were:
What are acceptable levels of warming?
What are the possible outcomes, at varying degrees of warming?
Are these changes due to emissions or part of normal cycles?
What is our ability to reverse the effects?
What can I personally do?
What is renewable energy and what is its role in beating climate change?
How does my everyday existence contribute now?
Is there a tipping point, and have we passed it?

So, the interest is there, what are museums and like institutions doing about it??

Monday, June 25, 2007

Logging On: Culture, participation and the web

Reading this interesting report at the moment - Logging On: Culture, participation and the web. Published on the Demos website and written by John Holden, it is a fascinating account of a major online initiative funded by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport in the UK. Some of the key points I picked up [my comments in square brackets]:
* Trends in internet developments show move from passive --> active; unidirectional --> interactive and from few --> many
* Early use of internet in museums was to digitise content
* 2007 use of internet was transformed in the UK through uptake of broadband with the net becoming the primary way that people access information. As well online commerce has transformed the music and film industries [who have had to respond to the illegal use of downloading to making it easy to do and minimal cost]
* “Rather than people using technology to adapt to their own needs, they are now using the capacity and functionality of technology to create and shape new potential.” (p.17)
* “... new web tools, greater computing power, better connectivity and increased uptake have changed the perception of the cultural possibilities of the internet from being a passive pool of digital information to being a vibrant fourth dimensions of life with limitless opportunities for interaction.” (p.17)
* Museums need strategy of user-generated content – this was why culture online was successful in actively engaging young people and adults in generating their own content
* The organisations in the pilot learned, as well as users developing their own IT skills and deeper understanding of the content
* [lessons for us – share resources such as developer expertise and project management; build projects across institutions and content areas. Is climate change/sustainability one we could do in Sydney?? Indigenous/Pacific stories are another]
* Lessons section (p.33 on):
# Need an external broker to bring partners together
# Clear project plan, roles and responsibilities
# Some institutions not used to rigorous project management systems – through the commissioning process gave them contractual obligations to deliver
# Need absolute clarity about who creates, controls [and signs off on] content
# IP needs to be sorted
# Need a recognised and established lead partner (i.e. the big museums) who can bring organisational resources to the project
# Start small-scale and move up from there
* Challenges:
# Bureaucracy often want control – therefore be clear on goals and responsibilities up-front
# Focus on user means that child protection is a big issue
# Sustainability needs to be factored in
# Need specialists in both the technology and the content [and the audience??]
* Useful section on moderation pp.39-40
* The Tate considers its website as the 5th gallery
* People don’t want to abandon the physical object, just want to find new ways to communicate about it
* “New web tools enable users collectively to express their preferences through their actions, without having to be asked.” (p.44)
* All the tools that Web 2.0 offers "... extend beyond simply the digitisation of data to models of linking and sharing information." (p.45)

Monday, June 18, 2007

Using visuals in evaluation

Digital Eva asks:
"I am also looking (or this is what basically my project aim) at how designer could design a tool in assisting summative evaluation by integrating drawings as the medium to reveal or gather information about audiences' experience."

I have used drawings quite successfully when evaluating exhibitions - it's a great tool for both adults and children. When I evaluated the Indigenous Australians exhibition I gave people a blank page with one question: "Draw how the exhibition made you feel". The responses were really amazing. As part of a front-end evaluation we asked children aged from 2-6 years to keep a journal of their museum experiences. The results were quite incredible as they mixed drawings with photos that they had taken thoughout the Museum. As part of our current research project, Culturally Diverse Audiences and Museums, we again used the journal method, this time to record participants' leisure activities and where museums fitted within their lives. In this study we also used photographs when interviewing people post-visit as a way to prompt memories of their experiences and as a deeper way to discuss their visit. They were photos that they had taken.

Also when doing a trawl, came across this useful resource Social Research Update published quarterly by the Department of Sociology, University of Surrey. There is an article there Visual research methods, although a tad old it has some interesting ideas. The article Using diaries in social research is also really good and relevant too.

I think that drawing and visual methods are a really good tool, especially when coupled with interviews (as you still need to get them to interpret their material). I'm wondering if there are any other examples out there??

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

A suitcase of portable meaning

Lynda, thanks for inviting me to post here.

As I was writing my paper, After the Show: Making sense after the event, for the Museums Australia Conference 2007, I was ruminating on the many ways that metaphors help exhibition visitors to make sense of their visiting experience. The National Gallery of Australia exhibition, Egyptian Treasures from the Louvre: Journey to the Afterlife, used the metaphor of the journey in its title and structure. When we spoke to visitors while evaluating the exhibition, we found that they often referred to the concept of a journey when speaking about their experience of the exhibition.

This had me thinking about whether the journey metaphor might apply to any exhibition.

It also had me thinking about the power of metaphors in any kind of communication. Looking around, I could see that metaphors are recommended in various communication fields. For example, Brian Clark espouses the power of the metaphor in writing on his Copywriter blog.

Given that museum exhibitions aim for excellent communication, I suddenly see the potential for more exhibitions to be conceived and structured around a powerful metaphor that can be a convenient suitcase of portable meaning for visitors. Or a handle they can grasp when they get challenged or disoriented. (See, it's fun playing with metaphors.)

What is your experience? How useful are metaphors as shaping-points for exhibitions? What exhibitions have you seen or presented that used metaphors? What were some lost opportunities?

Gillian Savage, Environmetrics.

Museums remixed

have a look at this blog from an American Musem conference on:
visitor-authored experiences and other forms of user participation in physical museums and online. This blog now serves as both a resource and a forum for those interested in continuing the dialogue regarding visitor-authored experiences. Whether or not you attended the sessions, please contribute your thoughts to our blog!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Exploratorium Explainers

Lynda have a look at this blog - perhaps a good one to discuss for the forum, or the regular web meetings. It is put together by floor staff at the Exploratorium. Not exactly audience research, but a good slant on museum blogs.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Writing Survey Questions

My offsider, Pauline, is embarking on the new world of question writing as we develop surveys for our Museum Shop and Science in the Suburbs. This got me thinking about what I would recommend as resources for question-writing.

Found a good online resource from the Committee on Audience Research and Evaluation called Visitor Studies 201 presented at the 2006 AAM, with a downloadable pdf on developing questions. There is a 'how to' on writing questions posted by the Evaluation and Visitor Studies SIG with a link to an online guide to designing and conducting visitor surveys by Julie Leones, The University of Arizona.

As mentioned before, Judy Diamond's 1999 book Practical Evaluation Guide: tools for museums and other informal educational settings (Walnut Creek: AltaMira Press) is a good starting point. For general advice on sampling and suggested questions for a whole range of areas try:
* McManus, P. (1991). Towards Understanding the Needs of Museum Visitors. In G. Lord & B. Lord (Eds.), The Manual of Museum Planning (pp. 35-52). London: HMSO. (I think there's a newer version of this book and it's in our Research Library).

You could also look at general social research texts - one I have used is:
* de Vaus, D. (1991). Surveys in Social Research (3rd ed.). London: UCL Press, especially Chapter 6 (also in our Research Library).

Good luck!

Friday, May 18, 2007

Museums and Web 2.0

While at the MA conference I have been asked by several people here what Web 2.0 is ... this is worrying! My straw poll of museum professionals at this conference revealed that noone has heard of Web 2.0, let alone doing any thinking about what it might mean for museums. So I promised to send them something, and have blogged it instead (I have been kind and sent them an email also!).

The three things I recommend people view/read are:
* The Machine is us/ing us
* Nina Simon's blog post about implementing Web 2.0 in museums
* paper discussing organisational barriers and Web 2.0 We are going to discuss this on our wiki

Of course there's lots more but I don't want to overwhelm people! Jerry's papers presented at the MA conference had a great summary of how strategy needs to come before tools so, at the risk of now overwhelming people I would add this to your list.

Museums Australia Conference 2007

HI all, am attending the annual Museums Australia conference in Canberra and am going to attempt to blog my experiences. There are no internet facilities at the conference (!!) so will check in when I can.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

A review of literature on audience research and evaluation for museum websites

There is a clear conception within the literature of the potential within the museum area for online development, given the already inherent value a museum has in terms of its reservoir of high quality content, often with its own intellectual property rights, and an established reputation for quality information provision, objectivity, and authority. (Both Daniel Cunliffe et al and Tom Hennes make similar points).

The challenge for museums on the web is to take advantage of and develop this potential, creating an online entity that is not just a pale reflection of the physical museum, but an exciting expansion into new ways of accessing, interacting with, exploring and developing resources held by museums.

Historically website design has been focused on the visual design, and when overhauling their sites, institutions such as museums may be faced with redesigning a site that may still ‘look’ good, but behind the scenes is dysfunctional, based on obsolete code and almost impossible to add to or update in a simple manner. Added to this is the challenge of addressing web 2.0 issues, including a desire to make the site more interactive and to bring the user into content manipulation and production. This adds another area of concern, with challenges to issues of control and management.

The literature shows that there are basic criteria to assess website usability and audience/user profiles that have been developed over the last 10-15 years, and these are seen as working effectively when applied as a group, rather than depending on any one method or aspect. A clear consensus emerges in regards to key issues.

These include: the necessity of usability testing, assessment and research at all stages of the web development process; the development of user profiles, as virtual users cannot be assumed to match physical visitors, about whom much research has already been done; the importance of a conceptual approach to the site, where the site is not just a reflection of the physical museum but an active entity in itself; and finally situating the virtual museum within a marketplace context.

To achieve this, the agreement is that there needs to be a lot of preparation, research, testing, trials and then more testing.

The earliest article, Usability Evaluation for Museum Websites, offers a thorough analysis of these criteria, which include:
1. user testing- with prototypes within the museum, monitor and observe interaction behaviour, use feedback. The user is usually given a set of tasks to carry out and is monitored. Can be monitored by video, think aloud protocol, observer’s notebook (problems include finding a typical user).
2. interviews- questionnaires about a prototype, an existing site, or ongoing feedback. Could be done via a kiosk in the museum.
3. log file analysis- looking at the data gathered automatically, includes such info as number of hits, type of platform, where the user came from, time spent on page and quite a lot more (problems include amount of data, relevance of data, interpretation, identification of unique visitors, caching) Then how do you extrapolate intention from info – why from what?
4. online questionnaires/feedback – the two major concerns are: self selection of sample; and response rate to draw reliable conclusions. Often there is a low response rate (between 2 and 5%)
5. Heuristic evaluation – doesn’t involve users, evaluates site against a set of agreed criteria or guidelines, research already available.
6. Procedures for ongoing maintenance and development must also be considered.

The article Audiences, Visitors, Users: Reconceptualising Users of Museum On-line Content and Services expands on these criteria to develop a more formal set of principles for web site development and evaluation. They put museum web site development into the context of the marketplace and come up with six design principles:
• acknowledge the marketplace web sites exist within
• have clear site goals, from the perspectives of the market, user, and organisation
• design in relation to these goals
• design an information space, not a museum replica
• test with target users at all stages, many times
• evaluate in terms of your goals, not just according to user demographic or products on site.

There are many examples in the literature (SFMOMA, Museum of Victoria) of organisations that take these basic criteria and offer case studies on how they apply them to their own redesigns, the challenges that emerged, and how effective the process was.
Some general points that come from these case studies are:
o Usability is important in developing an effective, interesting and user friendly website.
o There is a connection between website usage and attendance, however the audiences do not necessarily correlate completely.
o The different approaches – heuristic, user surveys, questionnaires, log file data – all contribute to a more complete picture of users and usability.
o How a user gets to the site is largely based on internet searches, rather than access through the home page.
o Museums have a very active role to play in developing their physical content for the online environment, and need to look at issues of intellectual property, copyright, etc.
o There is a lot of potential for museum sites – both directly and indirectly related to their physical role (see Hennes, Sherry Hsi)
o There are more novel methods of assessing user interaction for example the kiosk approach of the Exploratorium that can have a role in website evaluation.
o Web 2.0 – do the users want it? How do museums implement it in ways that do not threaten users, or waste resources? (see SFMOMA article, fresh and new blog re percentage of active users vs passive)
o How then do museums assess the use of this interactive content – data file analysis has not yet caught up with server side includes, active content, feeds etc.

Overall, for those embarking on web site redesign, or initial design, there is already a good body of research and practical examples to draw on for methods, ideas and examples. The challenge of web 2.0 and how to assess the role it plays in website assessment and audience research wil be another are for research and assessment over the next few years, as museums continue to take up the challenge of implementing web 2.0 concepts and ideas.