Why Focusing on Visitors Should Be Part of the Exhibit Planning Process

Many of us have played a role in creating a program or exhibit that we thought was going to be a home run, only to see it received with less than stellar attendance or low engagement. Sometimes you know exactly why you fell short, but sometimes the answers can be multifaceted and unclear. Maybe you chose the wrong day (anyone ever schedule a program on Rosh Hashanah or Super Bowl Sunday?), maybe you explained the offering poorly, maybe the subject did not resonate with people.

Midway Village, Rockford, IL
Midway Village, Rockford, IL

Some of these reasons could be mitigated by paying more attention to your current or desired visitors. Often due to lack of time or resources, we feel that we don’t have the time to do things like front-end evaluations, surveys, or prototyping, or we don’t have practical experience with these tools, but they are not as difficult to incorporate into our day-to-day routines as you might think.

More than ever before, our field needs to focus on understanding what makes visitors tick, and how we can be working harder to understand their needs, wants, and desires. This does not mean that we throw out our institution’s mission, vision, or values, but that we see where we can meet in the middle, where we can begin to do broaden our appeal and make visitors feel more comfortable.

Focusing on Visitors Workshop
Focusing on Visitors Workshop

If developing public programs and/or exhibits falls under your bailiwick of responsibilities, join us on March 31-April 1 for the AASLH workshop, Focusing on Visitors: Public Programming & Exhibits at History Institutions, at the Hagley Museum and Library in Delaware. Along with exploring the above mentioned subjects and tools, attendees will discuss:

  • active learning and techniques for interaction
  • volunteer staff management and training
  • creating/revamping exhibits
  • collaboration
  • communication
  • and online engagement.

Come learn new tricks, add to your current tool box, and expand your network of supportive colleagues.

Alexandra Rasic is the Director of Public Programs at the Homestead Museum in City of Industry, CA, and serves as co-faculty of this workshop with Tim Grove.