Front-end Evaluation: CLC Home Exhibition

Date: 
Wednesday, October 15, 2014
Resource Type:
Evaluation Reports | Front-End
Environment Type: 
Exhibitions, Museum and Science Center Exhibits
Audience: 
General Public | Museum/ISE Professionals | Evaluators
Discipline: 
Art, music, and theater | Education and learning science | Social science and psychology
Organization:
Baltimore Museum of Art, Randi Korn & Associates, Inc.
Description: 

The Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) contracted Randi Korn & Associates, Inc. (RK&A) to conduct a front-end evaluation for a new exhibition around the theme “home.” The exhibition will be the first in the Center for Learning and Creativity (CLC), a new space in the BMA that will be dedicated to creativity and learning. How did we approach this study? The BMA recruited 32 volunteer participants primarily through the BMA’s Facebook page. Participants were asked to spend about 10 minutes looking at a mock-up of exhibition materials and 20 minutes participating in an interview about the mock-up. The mock-up exhibition included photographs of objects that might be part of the exhibition and four text panels that gave context to the ideas that may be explored. RK&A evaluators asked participants to start by looking at the objects before answering a few questions. Then participants were invited to look at the objects again and read as much or as little text as they would like before answering a few more questions. What did we learn? Participants expressed strong interest in the theme “home.” Many made highly personal connections with the objects and theme, such as a woman who reflected on the parallel condition of her mother and her mother’s home, a man who discussed the shame of growing up in a low-income household, and a teenage boy who discussed missing his mother. While some were candid when talking about their reactions, others were noticeably reluctant because their experiences were so personal. Generally, the idea of moving or leaving a home resonated with visitors and the objects prompted them to think about their own homes. Additionally, the exhibition materials prompted the majority of participants to think about home in new ways, in particular the ideas of home as a psychological state or an impermanent place and the visual deciphering of home as a welcome or unwelcome place. The few barriers to the theme of “home” centered on how some representations of home did not align with how visitors naturally think about home. Barriers included objects that did not fit with the idea of home as a place of comfort and objects that lacked representations of people interacting with their homes. What are the implications of the findings? The theme “home” tested very well; participants considered it to be “universal” and connected with the selected objects. As staff at the BMA continue development, they might consider how to create a comfortable physical environment for visitors to explore their ideas about home and encounter new ideas—something they had already been pondering. They could also consider how to frame home in the exhibition text, given it can be experienced as universal and highly individualized. Introducing visitors to the dichotomous nature of the concept will prepare them to see both ends of the continuum and challenge them to consider alternative ideas about home. Presenting opportunities for engagement through interactives might invite visitors to respond to some of the more controversial objects or share their own stories about “home.”

Team Members

Randi KornRandi KornEvaluator
Amanda KrantzEvaluator

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