We have made a specialism out of formative and summative evaluations of temporary and permanent exhibitions. For the past eight years we have been involved in formative testing for the British Museum’s exhibition programme which has substantially increased its exhibition audiences, critical response, brand equity, membership and income levels for the museum. We conduct similar evaluations for major exhibitions at the Tate and at the National Gallery.
Our report Unpacking Exhibitions (based on analysis of 129 exhibitions and their audiences at 16 venues in London) revealed more than anyone had ever known about the audience for exhibitions, including the sizes and characteristics of audiencesfor different types of exhibitions.Our formative exhibition evaluations involve quantitative population surveys to ‘test the water’ with the wider market and concept-testing and proposition-testing focus groups or forums. Summative evaluations involve in-gallery interviews and observations together with ‘verdict’ exit surveys.
Scaleable multi-method approaches to address all objectives and budgets.
Exhibition/ design concept testing
Can be carried out two years or more in advance at the early planning stages to identify the nature and size of the market for the exhibition concept, or a whole programme of exhibitions; test responses to the concept amongst different market segments and explore how optional approaches might affect market size as well as design, content, interpretation, support programme and proposition development.
Exhibition Proposition testing
Can be carried out six-months to a year or more in advance and explore refinements made as a result of concept testing; differentiated propositions for different market segments; poster and publicity design and copy and campaign approaches.
Can be carried out closer to the exhibition or once it has opened and might specifically test visitor responses to and outcomes from interpretation; animation; design; placing of objects; interactive devices and ambient factors as well as marketing and signage approaches.
Summative Exhibition Evaluation
We have developed creative techniques for evaluating how visitors behave and make meaning in museums, galleries, displays and exhibitions, including how visitors navigate and use the spaces, dwell, depth of engagement and learning outcomes. Through this we can provide valuable feedback on how individual displays and exhibitions are working.
Capturing the profile of those who visit the exhibition, awareness and perceptions of those who have not visited and, if required, the ways in which they have engaged with the displays and interpretation and the outcomes they have derived from the exhibition. This data can then be used to not only evaluate the exhibition against the curatorial objectives, review and refine the exhibition, messaging and marketing mid-run or prior to touring, but also inform the approach to future exhibitions.
This provides a full evaluation of the exhibition at the end of the run with profile, engagement and responses of visitors using mixed quantitative and qualitative methods.