As Shelley introduced in her last post, we have the very ambitious goal of overhauling our visitor experience through an initiative funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies through their Bloomberg Connects program. We knew that to do this right, our visitors had be key players in the process. We also knew that we have a lot of assumptions about our visitors’ wants and needs. So it was vital for us to test those assumptions by working directly with our visitors.
We began with a series of internal meetings (lots of meetings!) of staff from across departments to determine what we (think we) know about our current visitor experience and our visitors. Out of these meetings came a list of things we know about ourselves and questions to help guide our thinking:
These and other questions helped us hone in on the key elements of this initiative: that it be personal, conversational, and begin in the lobby and echo throughout the building. To successfully reach those elements, we narrowed our focus to three tasks: we would need to provide access to experts; reconsider how we direct visitors throughout the building; and create ways to facilitate conversation.
So this series of meetings provided us with a basic framework based on our assumptions. Next we had to figure out how to test those assumptions. We adopted an iterative planning process used by the technology sector called “agile” (more on that later). This adaptive planning approach has allowed us to keep momentum and truly learn we a go, in this case through rapid-fire pilot projects that address a particular question. For each question, we developed a pilot that directly involved our visitors, often by placing staff in the galleries to speak with them.
In my next post, I’ll summarize our first pilots and discuss those important early learnings. In the meantime, we’re hiring. If you have a degree in art history, love engaging with visitors and think like an educator you should take a look at this.
Sara Devine joined the Brooklyn Museum as Manager of Interpretive Materials in 2011 and is now Director of Visitor Experience & Engagement. A vocal visitor advocate, her expertise lies in crafting accessible and engaging visitor experiences and reaching audiences across platforms. She works with curators, designers, educators, technologists, and editors on all aspects of visitor experience and engagement. Sara is also a visiting assistant professor and curriculum coordinator at Pratt Institute’s School of Information for their graduate program in Museums and Digital Culture. She was previously Senior Content Developer and Project Manager at Hilferty, a museum planning and design firm in Ohio, where she developed comprehensive interpretive master plans and exhibitions for a wide variety of museums. She has also worked at Assistant Curator, Special Exhibition at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello and as a Curatorial Assistant at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.