Tag archive for "Exhibit Design"

Exhibition Design, Museum Planning

Museum Exhibition Design, Part VI

1 Comment 10 July 2012

Museum Exhibition Design, Part VI, Exhibition Evaluation

Museum exhibition evaluation is a balancing act.  On one side you have visitor comprehension and on the other side you have museum mission & museum revenue.

Museum exhibition evaluation is a process to answer the question, “what is the visitor gaining from an exhibition?”.  Museum exhibitions are a form of communication and museum evaluation is a method to analyze the communication of an exhibition or answer “What is the exhibition communicating to visitors?”.   Exhibition evaluation can be divided into four phases, front-end evaluation, formative evaluation, remedial and summative evaluation.

Front-end evaluation – Provides background about the visitors’ prior knowledge and experience and gather  their expectations regarding a proposed exhibition.  The primary goal of front-end evaluation is to learn about the audience before an exhibition has been designed to better understand how visitors will respond to an exhibition. This information can help assure that the final product will meet visitor needs and project goals.

The aims are to:

  • Define the exhibition objectives for use in the Project Charter
  • Gain an understanding of the visitors prior knowledge and interests related to the exhibition concept
  • Test theories about visitor behavior and learning
  • Identify visitor needs and how can these be met
  • Collect relevant information about audiences and any proposed ideas to help decision making

The methods used include:

  • Focus groups
  • Interviews and surveys, face-to-face, phone, mail, partial self-administered
  • Large and small scale sample surveys/questionnaires
  • Unstructured and semi-structured interviews
  • Informal conversations and feedback
  • Computer surveys, online surveys
  • Community days/workshops
  • Review of similar exhibition evaluations
  • Review of Market Research

Formative Evaluation - Provides information about how well a proposed exhibition communicates its intended messages. Formative evaluation occurs while a project is under development. The evaluator measures visitor responses to models, plans, or prototypes of the program or exhibit. A prototype is a working version of an interactive exhibit, label and it should closely resemble the final product, although it may be more roughly constructed.  The more developed the model or prototype, the more likely visitor reactions in the formative stage will anticipate their reactions to the final product.

The aims are to:

  • Seek feedback related to how well the proposed exhibition communicates the messages
  • Produce the optimum exhibition program within the limits of what’s possible
  • Provide insight into learning and the communication processes

The methods used include:

  • Prototypes
  • Semi – structured interviews
  • Cued and non-cued observations
  • ‘Workshopping’ with staff and/or special interest groups
  • Consultants and peer feedback

The formative evaluation process is repeated until the exhibition developers are satisfied with the items being tested.  Information from formative evaluation is used to make changes to improve the design of a program or exhibit before it is implemented.

Remedial Evaluation – Takes place once an exhibition is open to the public. It is useful in troubleshooting problems and informs museum staff and designers about improvements that can be made to maximize the visitor experience.  Remedial evaluation is useful for addressing problems that could not be foreseen during the development a program or exhibit, such as lighting, crowd flow and signage issues.

The aims are to:

  • Check that the program ‘works’ in a practical sense
  • Determine what maintenance/resources are needed
  • Improve the short or long term effectiveness of the program for visitors
  • Provide some early insights into how visitors use the program.

The methods used include:

  • Observations
  • Informal feedback from visitors
  • Feedback sheets
  • Surveys and interviews
  • Comments books
  • Staff feedback, especially “Front-of-house” and floor staff

Summative Evaluation – tells about the impact of a project after it has completed. lt is conducted after the exhibit has opened to the public or after a program has been presented. Summative evaluation can be as simple as documenting who visits an exhibit or participates in a program, or it can be as complex as a study of what visitors learned. Generally, the results of summative evaluation will be used to improve future activities through an understanding of existing programs.  Summative evaluation uses a variety of methods at the conclusion of an exhibition or program to check whether it delivered the messages that were intended and what learning occurred; how satisfied people were with the program; as well as the performance of the marketing strategy. It is conducted on the finished exhibit or program and its components, using a combination of internal sources (Project Team, other staff) and external feedback (visitors, special interest groups, others).

The aims are to:

  • Give feedback about achievement of objectives
  • Provide information on how a program is working overall, how people use it, what they learn from it, or how they are changed
  • Provide reports, plan for future projects, suggest research, identify problems with visitor usage, interest and learning, identify successful strategies, layouts, etc
  • Identify the relationship between the program costs and outcomes through a cost/benefit analysis.

Museum evaluation is part science part Art, a good evaluator uses scientific method, through interviews, observation and testing creates a hypothesis and then tests the hypothesis.  There is necessary level of trust with an evaluator, having worked with several great evaluators, they can gently “see” from the visitor perspective and can hypothesize solutions to test.

Sadly the museum field is not very good about publishing evaluation studies at the bottom of the blog post is a listing of resources with a few samples of museum exhibition evaluations.  Each evaluation study is designed to meet the specific needs of the institution, exhibit, or program.  Exhibition evaluation is a process that starts before exhibition design and continues throughout the life of an exhibition.

..and now the other side

What if you evaluation report comes back with glowing feedback and the exhibition is perfectly meeting it’s objectives, but the museum is empty?

I often think of exhibition development as a funnel, you feed lots of exhibition ideas into the top of the funnel and see what is comes out the bottom.  Museums need to review potential exhibitions for:

1. Mission:  Does the exhibition meet the museum’s mission and advance the field of museums and the exhibition topic?

2. Revenue: Will the exhibition be a draw for visitors?  Will the exhibition increase museum attendance?

3. Visitor Needs: Does the exhibition fulfill a community need?  Is the museum’s audience interested in the proposed content?

In the past I have proposed a matrix approach, create a matrix  of the museum schedule identifying each gallery over a period of three years then look at the proposed exhibitions at any period of time and see how each exhibition meets the museum’s Mission, Revenue and Visitor Needs.  Then you can start feeding the top of the funnel with new exhibition ideas and have the exhibition evaluator, CFO, community advocate and visitor advocate weigh in.  Often, it is good to assign a small amount of money to exhibition development to each new exhibition idea, then make decions once the evaluation team has gathered enough data to make decisions.

I have been watching with great interest the recent changes at MOCA.  Museums need to balance the academic with the popular.  With the recent changes at MOCA, it is clear that MOCA has slide too far to the “self interested” popular side of the spectrum.  I am sure that the Disco exhibition will be popular and I am confident that such an exhibition could have a positive exhibition evaluation.  But, is the exhibition meeting MOCA’s mission?, I would say “No”.  If the Disco show was to coincide with exhibitions that meet the museum’s mission it would be less upsetting.

Resources:

Exploratorium Visitor Research and Evaluation
American Association of Museums, Committee On Audience Research and Evaluation (CARE)
Practical Evaluation Guide: Tools for Museums and Other Informal Educational Settings (American Association for State and Local History) by Judy Diamond, Jessica J. Luke and David H. Uttal
Australian Museum Association

Links for exhibition design phases:
Part I, Museum Exhibition Design – Planning
Part II, Museum Exhibition Design – Design Phases
Part III Museum Exhibition Design – Fabrication
Part IV Museum Exhibition Design – Installation
Part V Museum Exhibition Design – Exhibition Maintenance
Traveling exhibition design
Science Center exhibition design

Examples of each phase see “Museum Exhibition Design”

The steps of the exhibition evaluation is similar for Art Museums, Natural History Museums, Science Centers and Children’s Museums.  The differences are in the content development, the evaluation process is the same.

I have been part of evaluating exhibitions for Alcatraz Island, Muzeo, Mobius, Discovery Science Center, Chabot Science Center and the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.  Contact me if you are interested in help evaluating your museum’s exhibitions.

* Photo, Copyright Shutterstock Images LLC

Exhibition Design, Museum Planning

Museum Exhibition Design

2 Comments 25 July 2011

Defining and describing “Museum Exhibition Design” is not an easy task.  After 20+ years working in museum exhibition design, I have arrived at my own definition.  The first tough part is a definition of a “museum”.  I have kludged together a definition of “museum”:

Museum – “An organization in the service of society and its development, open to the public, which  researches, communicates and exhibits things and ideas, for the purposes of education, study and enjoyment.”

  1. Many museums are non collecting, so a museum is not about displaying a collection
  2. Some museums are “for profit”, so a museum can’t be defined by tax status
  3. Some museums don’t have a building or a “home”, so it is not about a location

Second tough part “exhibition”, I kludged together:

Exhibition: “An event at which displays are put out in a public space for people to view and interact”

Third part “design”, I kludged together:

Design – “The making of a plan for the construction of an object or a system”

Now, can I create a definition of  ”Museum Exhibition Design” that can apply to all the different types of museums?

Science Center
Natural History Museum
Airport Museum
Natural History Museum
Traveling Exhibition
Art Museum
History Museum
Aquarium
Mobile Museum
On line Museum / Virtual Museum
Zoological Park
Botanic Garden

Definition:

Museum Exhibition Design:  ”The making of a plan for the construction of  public displays for the purposes of education, study and enjoyment,  in the service of society and its development.”

Exhibition Design Process — Phases

The museum exhibition design process can be divided into five distinct phases:

  • Concept Development
  • Schematic Design
  • Design Development
  • Final Design
  • Construction Documents

The output of the design process:

  • Fabrication
  • Installation

Exhibition Design Process – Concept Development

Concept Development provides the “road map” for the project, where is the project going?, how will it get there? and a definition of the resources available to complete the project. Concept Development is culminated with the signing of a Project Charter outlining all of the components of the project.

  • Project Objectives
  • Project Filters
  • Project Charter
  • Initial Budget
  • Initial Schedule
  • Project Narrative, included in the Project Charter
  • Front End Evaluation Umbrella Concept
  • “Look and Feel”

 

Style Board

Exhibition Narrative

Design Process – Schematic Design

The goal of Schematic Design, is to flesh out the scope and character 0f the project. This enables all parties involved to confirm themes, interpretation goals and to review spatial arrangements, appearance, artifact use, materials and cost.

By the and of the Schematic Design phase, the team will have visuals, narratives, look-and-feel boards and layouts to initially review the allocation of space, traffic flow, audi0—visual components, interactive displays, lighting and special effects. An overall graphic identity for the exhibit at this stage of design.

Typical Deliverables for Schematic Phase in—person meetings (and distribution of meeting notes)

  • Content: description of project goals and messages
  • Content: visitor experience narrative
  • Content: outline 0f major components
  • Design: Rough plan view w/content
  • Design: Diagrams 0f content relationships
  • Design: Traffic-flow diagrams
  • Design: Sketches 0f key points in exhibition
  • Design: Color perspective sketches (for fundraising and exhibit naming opportunities)
  • Graphic Design: Collage of look & feel for exhibits and graphics
  • Schedule: Fabrication and Installation schedule
  • Schedule: budget development
  • Schematic Design Phase deliverables: bound II” x 17″ booklets + electronic master copy

Bubble Diagram

Exhibition Rendering

Schematic Floor Plan

Design Process – Design Development

During Design Development, section and elevation drawings of exhibits in the space are created. Content research is compiled into draft text and descriptions of the exhibits and the interactives. Functions of Audio-visuals and computer programs that will be part chartered

The family of graphic elements is complied and a graphic schedule of all the graphics is created. Graphic directional and identification signage for interior and exterior spaces of the exhibit area become part of the program.

Typical Deliverables for Design Development Phase

In-person meetings (and distribution of meeting notes)

  • Content: Final outline
  • Content: Draft text
  • Content: Initial image and object list
  • Content: Interactives and audio/visual outlines
  • Design: Plan w/content (CAD drawings)
  • Design: Elevations and Sections (CAD drawings)
  • Design: Preliminary Electrical plan (CAD draft)
  • Design: Preliminary Mechanical plan (CAD draft)
  • Design: Preliminary Lighting plan (CAD draft)
  • Design: Exhibit Component Database
  • Visuals: Interactive sketches
  • Graphic Design: Exhibit graphic design
  • Graphic Design: Inventory/matrix
  • Graphic Design: Layout & design of typical panels
  • Graphic Design: Directional Signing (way-finding) — locations plan and elevations with specifications for interior spaces
  • Schedule: Revised fabrication and installation schedule
  • Schedule: Revised fabrication budget
  • Database of graphics
  • Prototyping of interactive exhibits

 

DD Floor Plan

DD Exhibit Detail

 

Prototyping

Design Process – Final Design

By the conclusion of the Final Design phase, a complete package that illustrates the full exhibit design—h0w it will be built, where every component is located and how each works within the larger space. This package includes exhibition identification, exhibition descriptions, a database of exhibit components, measured CAD plans with content, floor plans, elevations, artifact lists, measured graphic design elements and samples, draft scripts with details for audio visual components, interactive exhibits, final text, sound and lighting systems specifications, production schedules and a fabrication cost estimate.

Once this phase is completed and has been approved by the team, the team can transition into fabrication.

Typical Deliverables for Final Design Phase

  • Three in-person meetings (and distribution of meeting notes)
  • Content: Final text
  • C0ntent: Draft scripts: interactives & A/V
  • Design : Plan w/content (measured CAD drawing)
  • Design : Elevations w/graphics & dioramas/murals (measured CAD)
  • Design : Sections/details (measured CAD)
  • Design : Electrical plan/schedule (measured CAD)
  • Design : Mechanical plan/schedule (measured CAD)
  • Design : Lighting plan (measured CAD)
  • Design : A/V Signal plan (measured CAD)
  • Design : Finish schedule
  • Design : Interactive operation diagrams
  • Design : Audiovisual concept sketches
  • Architectural Permit documents (as required)
  • Graphic Design: Exhibit graphic design (measured drawings)
  • Graphic Design: Image management & acquisition
  • Exhibit component database with product and material specifications
  • Schedule: Final fabrication and installation schedule
  • Schedule: Final fabrication budget

 

FD Electrical Plan

A/V Plan

Design Process – Construction Documents (CD Also called Contract Documents)

By the conclusion of the Final Design phase, a complete package that illustrates the full exhibit design—how it will be built, where every component is located and how each works within the larger space. This package includes exhibition identification, exhibition descriptions, a database of exhibit components, measured CAD plans with content, floor plans, elevations, artifact lists, measured graphic design elements and samples, draft scripts with details for audio visual components, interactive exhibits, final text, sound and lighting systems specifications, production schedules and a fabrication cost estimate.

Once this phase is completed and has been approved by the team, the team can transition into fabrication.  Typical Deliverables for Final Design Phase

  • Three in-person meetings (and distribution of meeting notes)
  • Content: Final text
  • Content: Draft scripts: interactives & A/V
  • Design: Plan w/content (measured CAD drawing)
  • Design: Elevations w/graphics & dioramas/murals (measured CAD)
  • Design: Sections/details (measured CAD) Design: Electrical plan/schedule (measured CAD)
  • Design: Mechanical plan/schedule (measured CAD) (if required)
  • Design: Lighting plan (measured CAD)
  • Design: A/V Signal plan (measured CAD)
  • Design: Finish schedule
  • Design: Interactive operation diagrams
  • Design: Audio visual concept sketches
  • Architectural Permit documents (as required)
  • Graphic Design: Exhibit graphic design (measured drawings)
  • Graphic Design: Image management & acquisition (as defined in budget)
  • Exhibit component database with product and material specifications
  • Schedule: Final fabrication and installation schedule
  • Schedule: Final fabrication budget

 

CD Detail

The tough part, I call it “Museum Voice”, how does the museum communicate with the public?, as an “school teacher”, ” a surfing buddy”, “a driving instructor”, “a best friend”, all are valid.  A “voice” will come through if you design one or not, so be conscious of how you are communicating with the public.

Sources:

“How Museum Do Exhibits Cost” by Jay Rounds and Joyce Cheney, Exhibitionist Spring 2002, Vol 21, No.1

“Architecture and Exhibition Design: A Survey of Infrastructure” by Charles Howarth Jr. and Maeryta Medrano, ASTC, 1997 (Discovery Science Center, Santa Ana, CA, / Mark Walhimer was one of the case studies)

2010, 2009, 2008 ASTC Statistics Analysis Package

www.si.edu/opanda/reports/EXCost.pdf

http://www.aam-us.org/aboutmuseums/whatis.cfm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Museum

http://icom.museum/who-we-are/the-vision/museum-definition.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exhibition

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Design

http://www.louvre.fr/llv/musee/histoire_louvre.jsp?bmLocale=en

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capitoline_Museums

 


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