Reflecting on my experiences at Museums and the Web Asia, particularly my (rather frustrating) visit to the David Bowie Is exhibition, I came across a post by Regan Forrest from early 2015 called the Fear of criticism – why, as museum professionals are we reluctant to criticise our colleague’s work. My comment to Regan at the time was that the problem with criticism is that it is often a “data-free” zone. What’s the point of criticism without data??
So, having had a poor visitor experience at that particular exhibition, and coupled with some robust discussions with colleagues about why it didn’t work for me, I was inspired to revisit a tool we had developed several years back to use in exhibition evaluation. The Exhibition Appraisal Form was developed in 2004 as part of the project, Museums Actively Researching Visitor Experiences and Learning (MARVEL). The project aimed to understand and measure museum learning, with a particular focus on adolescents. The project was a joint initiative between the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) and industry partners the Australian Museum, Sydney; Museum Victoria; the National Museum of Australia, Canberra; and Sovereign Hill Museums Inc, Ballarat.
The form was developed and tested by members of the MARVEL Project Team, based on both literature and findings from previous studies that shaped the team’s approach to learning, seeking feedback on the following aspects of an exhibition and visitors’ responses:
- Continuing learning
The form was designed to be used by staff as a self-assessment tool, as well as researchers. I used it successfully with interns and work experience students as a way to introduce them to the process of audience research and evaluation based around visitor learning outcomes within an exhibition context.
The Exhibition Appraisal Form can be downloaded here – the nine categories (all conveniently beginning with “C”!), I believe, could be used as a simple checklist when designing visitor experiences.
Give it a try and see what you think!