Friday, March 21, 2008

Evaluation, Research and Communities of Practice: Program Evaluation in Museums

This from Rama Lakshmi in India: Let me introduce myself. I am a journalist who writes about India for The Washington Post. My other big professional path is museums. I was a student of Dr Jay Rounds in St Louis, Missouri. And have worked at the science and history museums in St Louis and at the Smithsonian's Museum of American Indian. I am going to begin teaching the MA museum studies class at the New Delhi-based National Museum Institute (which is a deemed university). And I am going to teach visitor studies. Dr Jay Rounds adviced me to write to you. Could you kindly send me your article "Evaluation, Research and Communities of Practice: Program Evaluation in Museums"? I would like to read it and also have my students read it. Do you have it electronically? I am also interested in your web discussion forum. How and where can I access it?

I get so many requests for this paper that I decided to post it to my audience research wiki (you need to go down the page a bit). Basically, this paper "... outlines the development of audience research in museums, the context within which it operates, and describes the processes of audience research through a series of case studies drawn from the work of the Australian Museum Audience Research Centre. It is argued that the shift in museums from mission-led program development to balancing content and audience needs through a transaction approach requires a broader research-focussed agenda. While traditional ways of conducting evaluations are necessary and useful, to remain viable audience research needs to be more strategic, working across the sector in new ways and utilising new methods. How programs impact on users and facilitate learning about a wide range of key issues that museums are concerned with is a leadership role that audience research can take across both the cultural sector and other free-choice learning contexts."

Rama, to access other resources there is this blog (naturally!), my audience research wiki mentioned above, and a new social networking group I have started called Museum 3.0 where all kinds of people can discuss all kinds of things. I'll be teaching audience research for Museum Studies at Sydney University this year also and have set up a discussion group specifically for that – it would be awesome if you and your students joined us. Please feel welcome to join up – I'll send you an invite (or click on the Museum 3.0 link at the top of my blog).

1 comment:

Danielle Clark said...

An important part of your program evaluation should be to note the educational implications of the content of your museam displays for children who are learning about topics that relate to the contents of your museum.