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Visitor StudiesAstronomy

Cosmic Carnival: All the Wonders of the Universe
St. Louis Science Center
St. Louis, Missouri
July 1994
Study conducted by staff evaluators Carey Tisdal and Joyce Gang

Purpose: To provide useful information for exhibition developers and designers during the planning stage of a proposed gallery, including use of exhibits by family groups; attractiveness of the gallery concept; visitor interest and attitudes toward the subject; and existing knowledge and conceptions.

Methods: In-depth interviews with 28 visitors representative of the target audience. Family groups were targeted for interviews focusing on children between 7 and 12 and adults between 25 and 55. Interviews were videotaped and responses transcribed.

Findings: Adults wanted a balance of exhibits, some allowing interaction with children, and some allowing the adult to explore on his/her own. While the exhibition concept was very attractive to children and somewhat attractive to adults, it did not make clear connections to thinking about the everyday influences of astronomical phenomena or the benefits of research (the gallery goals). Children were less likely to understand deep connections between astronomical phenomena and life on earth. Even scientifically knowledgeable adults could not cite concrete applications of these sciences in their daily lives. Adults had more knowledge and more misperceptions than children, both largely attributable to science fiction television and movies, not folklore as assumed by some staff members.

Electric Space
Space Science Institute
Boulder, Colorado
Study conducted by Randi Korn & Associates, Alexandria, Virginia
March 1992

Purpose: To determine visitors' familiarity with, knowledge of, and misconceptions about the relations between the sun and the earth for use in development of traveling exhibition

Methods: Questionnaire and flash-card sorting activity

Findings: Visitors were somewhat familiar with three states of matter (solid, liquid, gas), but unfamiliar with the fourth (plasma). Visitors were able to define some astrophysical terms, but superficially.

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