As you may recall, we kicked-off a visitor study about Connecting Cultures back in May with an updated approach based on a bit of trial-and-error in July. We wrapped up the study in August and it’s taken me awhile to crunch all the data and wrap my mind around what it all means—and honestly, I’ve only scratched the surface.
During the run of the study, 62 people completed our interviews and 59 completed surveys. I am happy to report, that generally speaking, the exhibition works. That is, most of you (85%!) recognized the main idea. This tells me that our didactics—our labels and wall text—are clearly communicating what we hope you will take away from the exhibition. The 85% includes both survey takers, who were able to select from multiple choices, and interviewees, who had to put the main idea in their own words. Survey participants could only select one choice from the options, but those interviewed were free to articulate the main idea in any way they wanted. What I find interesting is that most people had more than one answer, which makes me think that most visitors are clearly finding the meaning we are presenting, but also coming up with their own meaning—which is great! Our presentation is just one interpretation and should be treated as such. The more visitors that can find their own meaning, the better.
In addition to wondering if you recognize the main idea, we also wanted to know how you were using the exhibition. Our hope is that it serves as a kind of template to your experience. On the most basic level, we hope it gets you thinking about art in new ways. On a slightly more complication level, we hope that it encourages you to find and explore cross-cultural and cross-collection connections throughout the other galleries. In this arena, we could do a little better. Only 45% of participants (combined survey and interview) used the exhibition in this way and for most of them it was more “thinking about art in new ways” than “find and explore connections”. Still, I am encouraged by the enthusiastic responses of some visitors who really picked up on this idea and ran with it. After all, it’s a suggestion not a mandate.
On a large scale, our next steps include identifying ways we can underscore the template function of Connecting Cultures by providing additional opportunities throughout the galleries to make connections (for those that want it). Now we are armed with input from you as we update some of our long-term, collections-based installations.
On a small scale, I would like to spend more time combing through the rest of the data. Other questions asked included what visitors want to know about works on display, how long they spend (or really think they spend) looking at a work of art, and more. Though the study answered some immediate questions about Connecting Cultures, I have a feeling it will spark even more questions once I can really sink my teeth into all the information available.
A big thank you everyone who participated—your time and effort in letting us survey your experiences helps us improve the visit for everyone.
Sara Devine joined the Brooklyn Museum in 2011 as the Manager of Interpretive Materials. Sara works with curators, designers, educators, technology, and visitor services staff on all aspects of interpretation. A vocal visitor advocate, her expertise lies in crafting accessible and engaging visitor experiences. She received her M.A. in Museum Studies from The George Washington University and B.A. in Classical Civilization from Emory University. Sara was previously Senior Content Developer and Project Manager at Hilferty, a museum planning and exhibition design firm in Ohio, where she developed comprehensive interpretive plans and exhibitions for a wide variety of museums. She has also worked as the Assistant Curator, Special Exhibitions at Monticello and as a Curatorial Assistant at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.