Key points from the summative evaluation we did of the Dinosaur Unearthed exhibition in 2006
The aim of the evaluation was to undertake a detailed study of Dinosaur Unearthed and feed the results into the development of the new permanent Dinosaurs exhibition opening in 2008.
The following studies were undertaken:
Dinosaur Unearthed was well received by both visitors and staff. However the Centrosaur story was not well understood and visitors clearly did not read the text panels. This could be attributed to a reluctance to read, yet those who did read them felt the text was well written. Poor positioning of the panels may have contributed to low level of engagement with the written text. Once engaged with the story, visitors were fascinated and asked a great many questions of the staff. The process from finding fossils in the field to reconstructing a dinosaur skeleton is of high interest to many visitors.
Visitors were disappointed with the size of the exhibition and the number of dinosaurs on display. All wanted more, more, more! Handling ‘real’ fossils material was a highlight but there was a lot of confusion over what was real and what was cast. Confusion also existed over what was a touch specimen and what was not.
As previous research has consistently found, interactive component of an exhibition are very important, especially for children, and most visitors expect to interact with technology within an exhibition. The working lab was very well received by visitors and extremely popular with the volunteers and staff who enjoyed their interactions with visitors. Many staff felt the layout could be improved to allow visitors a closer view of the experts in action and consideration must also be given to height to allow viewing by children and those with disabilities.
The exhibition was attractive to visitors of all ages and there was a high degree of social interaction within visitor groups, adults reading text to children and children eager to display their knowledge of dinosaurs to adults. The opportunity to take photos was clearly a priority for visitors with children.
Different levels of engagement were clearly evident. Some visitors are immersed in the wonder of dinosaurs while others are engaged in a far greater depth.
Size is important. Visitors want to see BIG specimens and lots of them.