Audience Development Master Class 2009

By: Dr Lynda Kelly, Category: Museullaneous, Date: 22 Nov 2009

I have been invited to give a masterclass on museum audience development for Museums Australia,Victoria (MAVIC), on 24 November 2009 at the Melbourne Museum. I have posted relevant links and commentary on this page.

Teachers College: Message for the Museum #13

Teachers College: Message for the Museum #13
Photographer:  © Australian Museum

Benjamin Gilman, 1918:

To fulfil its complete purpose as a show, a museum must do the needful in both ways. It must arrange it contents so that they can be looked at; but also help its average visitors to know what they mean. It must at once install its contents and see to their interpretation.

In 1901 the then Director of the Smithsonian, Samuel P. Langley, appointed himself Honorary Curator of the newly established Children’s Room and wrote himself a letter accepting the position. He had this to say:

The Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution has been pleased to confer upon me the honorable but arduous duties of the care of the Children’s Room. He has at his service so many men learned in natural history that I do not know why he has chosen me, who knows so little about it, unless perhaps it’s because these gentlemen may possibly not also be learned in the ways of children, for whom this little room is meant.

It has been my purpose to deserve his confidence, and to carry out what I believe to be his intention, by identifying myself with the interests of my young clients. Speaking, therefore, in their behalf, and as one of them, I should say that we never have a fair chance in museums. We cannot see the things on the top shelves, which only grown-up people are tall enough to look into, and most of the things we can see and would like to know about have Latin words on them, which we cannot understand: some things we do not care for at all, and other things which look entertaining have nothing on them to tell us what they are about....

We think there is nothing in the world more entertaining than birds, animals, and live things: and next to these is our interest in the same things, even though they are not alive; and next to this is to read about them. All of us care about them and some of us hope to care for them all our lives long. We are not very much interested in the Latin names, and however much they may mean to grown-up people, we do not want to have our entertainment spoiled by being it made a lesson.

Quoted in Skramstad, H. (1999). An Agenda for American Museums in the Twenty-First Century. Daedalus, 128(3), p.113-114.

Museums have been interested in their audiences for a very long time and the earliest studies were conducted in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Why, therefore, do we still have museum buildings and physical exhibits that don't work for visitors?

This workshop will unpack these questions through taking a look at why conduct audience research; what has it told us; how to do audience research and how to implement the findings. We will also address visitor learning using an exhibition appraisal tool to evaluate Museum Victoria's Wild: Amazing animals in a changing world exhibition, as well as discuss what Web 2.0 means for audience development in this fast-paced world.


Lynda Kelly - 3.11 PM, 24 November 2009

Here's some other links we discussed:

National Library of Australia Newspapers project

Nevada Museum art+environment project

Click! Crowd Curated exhibition at Brooklyn Museum

Lynda Kelly - 1.11 PM, 24 November 2009

Here's some of the links that we've been discussing so far today:

Sensory Mapping (via UK Sensory Trust)

Audience Development Project Museums & Galleries NSW

Example of visitor feedback on Flickr

Exhibition Critiques - go to the link from this page

EVRSIG Profiling your Visitors project resources

The schools audience information

More to follow ...


Lynda Kelly - 7.11 AM, 24 November 2009

Here's another pertinent quote from Daniel Spock in the recent edition of the Exhibitionist: ‘If you invite people to really participate in the making of a museum, the process must change the museum’ (2009, p.7, emphasis in original). We should discuss this too...

This is how we are planning the day:

9am Setup

9.45-10am Participants Arrive

10.05am  Welcome by Lyndel Wischer (MA Vic) & Introduce Lynda Kelly

10.10am Masterclass - Session 1: introductions and what want to get from the day; what is audience research and how can we use it?
11am Morning Tea
11.30 - 12.30 Session 2: doing audience research; developing a plan for your insititution/project (research questions/gaps; methods; resource; budget)
12.30pm Lunch
1.15pm Session 3: Measuring learning - the Exhibition Appraisal Form
1.30pm Visit Wild Exhibition and evaluate
3.00pm Wrap-up: develop plan; final questions
3.45pm Event Evaluation & Questions
4pm Close
Lynda Kelly - 9.11 AM, 22 November 2009

Here's a great piece on visitor comfort from the Western Museums Association we can also have a look at in the Masterclass.

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