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Visitor StudiesOther topics

San Francisco, California
Study conducted by staff researcher Sue Allen

Purpose: To investigate visitors' perceptions of boundaries in their daily lives for an exhibition on that topic

Methods: Open-ended interviews

Findings: When asked what the word "boundaries" brought to mind, visitors frequently mentioned physical fences (e.g., barbed wire, electric), geographical features (e.g., beaches, state and country borders), and restrictions that stop certain behaviors. Visitors described the significance of boundaries as stopping chaos, keeping you out of danger, defining rules and social norms, keeping things separate, and creating things to test ourselves against. Responses also showed a tension between breaking boundaries and
embracing them: visitors felt both limited and protected by boundaries in their lives.

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The Endangered Species Act
American Museum of Natural History
New York, New York.
Study conducted by museum evaluator Ellen Giusti

Purpose: To examine visitors' knowledge and attitudes about this legislation in preparation for the development of an exhibition about endangered species and habitats

Methods: Focused interviews

Findings: More than 80 percent had heard about the legislation, felt it was important, and believed the public needs to know about it and play a role; 44 percent felt the current law was not enough, and 49 percent felt legislation needs to give more consideration to economic impact.

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Exhibit Clusters
California Science Center
Los Angeles, California
Study conducted by John Falk, Institute for Learning Innovation, Annapolis, Maryland
July 1995

Purpose: To investigate whether clusters of conceptually linked exhibits positively influence visitors' conceptual understanding of scientific concepts, particularly as this related to the development of CMSI's two new exhibition areas, Creative World and World of Life

Methods: Tracking and in-depth interviews

Findings: Visitors spent more time in exhibit clusters that included a repeated main message, and conceptual understanding of the exhibit's "big idea" was significantly better under this condition.

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Multimedia Science Kits on Women Scientists
University of Nebraska State Museum
Lincoln, Nebraska
Study conducted by Trixie Schmidt, project staff; Amy Demereil, graduate student; and Judy Diamond, assistant director for public programs

Purpose: To assist in planning for series of multimedia kits for use in schools

Methods: Surveys (phone and mail) and interactive teleconference

Findings: Teachers surveyed showed strongest interest in topics such as insects, geography, rocks and minerals, Native American artifacts, and Nebraska fossil mammals. Eighty percent with previous experience using museum kits said they use them supplementally and want small kits that can be distributed by mail and easily stored in the classroom.

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Rotten Truth (About Garbage)
Collaboration including Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service and ASTC
Conducted at the Maryland Science Center in Baltimore by Baiba Sube Lennard, exhibit developer based in Boulder, Colorado
May-June 1993

Purpose: To develop an understanding of visitors' and non-visitors' ways of thinking and talking about solid waste, and to determine areas of greatest curiosity, to assist in planning for a traveling exhibition

Methods: Semi-structured interviews with museum visitors and people outside the museum; focused interviews and observations of visitors with mock-ups

Findings: People generally placed responsibility for garbage someplace other than on themselves (for example, people who are lazy or don't know better, industries that produce too much packaging, and increasing population). Most expected to find "how to" information, and an overriding "anti-pollution" message; recycling was mentioned most often.

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