British Museum evaluation reports online

In Museums, what i'm reading on February 4, 2011 at 9:13 am

If you’re interested in visitor research in museums, read on. The British Museum has recently published a selection of exhibition evaluation reports on its website. These documents are the results of investigations, mostly by the Manchester-based consultancy Morris Hargreaves McIntyre, into the exhibition programme at the Museum over the last few years.

The Museum generally commissions research about its exhibitions with members of the public in three stages:

Front end evaluation is undertaken when an exhibition is still a germ of an idea, to help the Museum understand if the subject appeals to its key audiences and what people’s existing knowledge of the theme is like.

Formative evaluation takes places once the exhibition is in development and helps to inform or test out the interpretive devices that have been suggested so far. It’s a progress-check with the public that the exhibition is on track.

Summative evaluation is then commissioned when the exhibition is open. This process tests how well the exhibition performed in terms of the objectives set for it, and also informs future exhibition projects.

Evaluation reports from a selection of exhibitions dating from 2006 to 2008 are now online on the BM website. I worked on the interpretive process for a few of these, including Ikebana: living flowers of Japan, Divine Cat: speaking with the gods in Ancient Egypt and Conservation in Focus.

Since leaving the BM a few years ago I now carry out this kind of evaluation, on a smaller scale, for a variety of clients. I work at all three stages of the process, testing ideas before they are put into commission; soliciting responses to exhbitions in development and evaluating exhibitions that have already opened. It’s a fun process, recruiting and conducting focus groups and testing out ideas in face-to-face interviews. If you want to know more about this process, just drop me a line.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: