Being an #osherfellow: Part 1

name badgeAs you may know I’m spending the week at the Exploratorium as an Osher Fellow. Part of my brief is to meet with a range of staff, chatting and generally answering questions (and learning lots as I go!).

What I decided to do, dedicated blogger and (over) sharer that I am, was to blog these Q&A sessions with relevant links for people to investigate themselves, otherwise they’d be spending way too much time on various blogs trying to find stuff.

So, here goes – notes, links, Q&As from my first two days as an #osherfellow.

Question: Exhibition topics – how do you evaluate them?

Answer: This question came from the brown bag lunch with staff and I re-visited the joys (not!) of my many topic testing studies. I wrote a blog piece here on this topic, and re-iterated the main findings: a topic appeals if people know just enough about it to intrigue, but not too much so they see there’s more to learn and if it makes “sense”, being a natural fit for the organisation.

Question: What sample sizes do you recommend?

Answer: It depends – on the aims of the study, the resources you have available, the time frame for the study and the questions that need to be answered. Here’s a piece about sample sizes, with the main point being: you don’t need to eat a whole pie to taste the pie! We also discussed the need to be agile, especially when testing out quick ideas and concepts, and that an ideas room / space may be a good way forward.

Question: What kind (if any) of digital experiences do visitors want before, during and after a visit?

Answer: This is a thorny one, and the answer is probably not as much as we think, or hope. These three posts explain more:

Question, (well more of an observation): We’re getting good traction from attracting young folks to the Exploratorium through our adults-only membership and late-night programs. Do you have any research around this?

Answer: Excellent work and yes, I do. Start with this blog post, and also check out the work done at the Australian Museum around their incredible successful and ground-breaking Jurassic Lounge program (and kudos to the museum’s @mattravier):

Question: Can social networks be effective in raising awareness of science centres or increase propensity to visit?

Answer: It depends. Colleen’s blog, Know Your Own Bone, is a must-read in this area, especially this post, Top Information Sources for Likely Visitors to Cultural Organisations By Generation. And, therefore, the answer is yes, for many (or, in my experience, for most). Some other useful readings:

We also had an interesting discussion about social media generally, and I recalled how difficult it was back in the day when social media was in it’s infancy, regarded suspiciously by staff and pretty hard to do with the digital tools available at the time (ummm, have things changed much?!). This oft-cited 2008 Curator paper, Participatory Communication with Social Media (Russo, Watkins, Kelly and Chan) reports early thinking around this area.

I’m looking forward very much to talking more with various Explo teams across the next 2.5 days – so watch out for more posts over the next few days (and probably weeks given the amount I’m learning!).

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