What Happens After They Leave? Visitors’ Follow Up Behaviors to their Museum of Science Experiences
It is relatively unknown what impact the Museum of Science has on its visitors once they leave our doors. This study aims to create a baseline understanding of how visitors follow up on what they have learned at the Museum. We examined follow up interviews from the Star Wars: Where Science Meets the Imagination exhibition evaluation and some of its accompanying programming, the Rethinking Urban Transportation forums, Bionics and Prosthetics forums, and The Force and Its Many Faces lectures. The follow up interviews were conducted via email and phone six to 10 weeks after visitors came to the Museum. Findings demonstrate that participants' follow up behaviors tended to fall into three categories. At one end of the spectrum were some interviewed participants who did not follow up on their learning at all, but were able to remember their experiences. These participants oftentimes described not following up on their learning because they were satisfied with their Museum experience as it was and were too busy to follow up. In the middle of the spectrum were participants who did not actively continue their learning experience, but were reminded of the content while going about their everyday lives. Reminders were as basic as seeing billboards or photographs that triggered memories of the event or as informative as reading or hearing news clips that added content knowledge to visitors' understanding of the subject. Finally, there was a category of participants who actively continued to follow up on their learning by having purposeful extended discussions on the topic, joining related community organizations, reading books on the topic, or renting movies. In many cases, follow up behaviors corresponded with the Museum experience's resources, whether it was following through with the Museum's partner organization, clicking on links the webpage Museum visitors were sent, or attending future related lectures. The findings suggest that visitors to the Museum of Science are being impacted by their Museum experiences and that their learning on the topic does not stop at the door. The findings challenge program organizers to think more deeply about building in participants' post-Museum experience learning into programs and call for more research on how resources can be designed to maximize continued learning. The appendix of this report includes the interview protocol used in the study.