Audience and evaluation panel discussion: ITP+ Aswan
Rebecca Horton, International Training Programme Coordinator
Before concluding ITP+ Aswan with an evaluation and study day trip the group met one last time at the Nubia Museum, to participate in a panel discussion. Petrie and Manchester Museum curator’s, Anna Garnett and Campbell Price, and British Museum Interpretation team members, Stuart Frost and Jane Batty each gave a brief overview of their institutions use of audience surveys and evaluation methods before taking questions from and facilitating discussion between workshop participants.
Stuart Frost began by explaining the British Museum’s annual visitor survey: interviewing over 2000 visitors a year to find out why they visited and what they thought. As a result of these findings the British Museum was able to work on increasing family visitor figures.
Stuart described 3 points at which visitors should be asked for their opinion:
1. Front End: ‘walk through’ the exhibition plan, whilst it is still on paper, with a focus group at a point when changes can still be made. Listen to their opinions and make adjustments where appropriate.
2. Formative: at an early stage of a gallery refurbishment or new gallery project, talk to the public about what they would like to see.
3. Summative: once a gallery or exhibition has opened consider what works in the space and what does not to identify learning for future projects.
Jane Batty explained 3 audience survey techniques she like to apply, as each technique is daptable to the scale of a particular project:
1. Tracking and observation: following a visitor’s route around a museum or gallery before redesigning a space to find out which objects are popular and which require help to drawn visitor attention to them.
2. Short interviews: asking visitors 1 – 2 questions e.g. do you like family labels in exhibitions? … In order to decide what interpretation methods are liked and are of use to visitors, and therefore which methods to use in future.
3. Visitor Survey: Ask visitors to temporary exhibitions the same set of questions to compare the successes of each exhibition and identify lessons learnt for future exhibitions.
Anna Garnett spoke about the importance of consistency when surverying museum visitors. Keeping an accurate record of visitor numbers and types of visitor (e.g. children) can be beneficial when proposing future projects to colleagues and applying for funding. Knowing when your museum is more or less busy at different times of the year is invaluable to help plan visitor programmes to meet demand or to boost visitor numbers. Anna added that a comments board within your museum is a useful tool for getting qualitative visitor feedback. The comments board can be as simple as eye catching coloured card and post it notes with pens!
Campbell Price supported Anna’s comments on qualitative data and talked about the importance of getting qualitative results from museum event evaluations – results which contain detail and personal thoughts rather than results which contribute toward statistics. This is particularly useful when your museum is experimenting with new types of events, to discover what your target audience took from their experience.
We will follow up with a blog detailing participants questions and answers from the panel discussion.