Remedial Evaluation of ExhibitFiles
ExhibitFiles is an online community for exhibit practitioners developed by the Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC) with funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The website provides an infrastructure for sharing and building knowledge about exhibition development and design practices. After testing, the site officially opened on April 23, 2007. Influenced by learning theories such a Wenger's community of practice (1998) and Web 2.0 concepts, the project team incorporated site features and management strategies to develop and extend the professional networks and the knowledge base of museum exhibition development. This remedial evaluation was conducted by Tisdal Consulting during late 2009 and 2010 to identify changes that could contribute to the site's impact. The overarching methodology was naturalistic inquiry (Lincoln & Guba, 1985), Methods included the development of a program theory Weiss (1998), analysis of the website database (N = 1357), comparison to an association membership database (N = 830), an online survey of registered members (N = 286), and in-depth interviews with the project team and registered members (N = 18). The overarching questions for this study addressed were: (1) How did the design team assume the site would work to produce the intended impacts? (2) To what extent and in what ways do website users value and use the functions provided by the website? What does participation mean to users? (3) To what extent and in what ways do users perceive themselves as members of a community? Is this perception related to a type or level of participation? (4) To what extent and in what ways were these strategies successful in accomplishing the project impacts?