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Opportunities to Make Science Museum Visits More Meaningful: Results from a Real Time Earthquake Exhibition Summative Evaluation. Meagan Smith Masters of Museum Studies, University of Toronto 2005 Candidate. Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology. The IRIS/USGS Earthquake Display.

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slide1
Opportunities to Make Science Museum Visits More Meaningful:

Results from a Real Time Earthquake Exhibition Summative Evaluation

Meagan Smith

Masters of Museum Studies, University of Toronto

2005 Candidate

Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology

slide2
The IRIS/USGS Earthquake Display
  • 51-inch plasma monitor that displays the
  • locations of earthquakes
  • 2) Computer monitor that lists the times,
  • magnitudes, and geographic locations of the
  • displayed earthquakes
  • 3) Mechanical triple drum – records four days of
  • continuous ground motion at three remote
  • locations
  • 4) Associated text and visuals (varies by museum)
slide3
Evaluation Methodology
  • Museums
  • 1) Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History (NMNH)
  • Plate Tectonics Gallery (PTG)
  • 2) American Museum of Natural History (AMNH)
  • Gottesman Hall of Planet Earth (HoPE)
  • Method
      • Phase 1 – Gallery & IRIS/USGS Display
        • Tracking & timing (n=100)
        • Sweeps (n=100)
        • Open-ended exit interviews (n=34) (PTG only)
      • Phase 2 – IRIS/USGS Display
        • Focused observations (n=100)
        • Open-ended post experience interviews (n=50)
slide4
Gallery Space

NMNH Plate Tectonics Gallery

AMNH Gottesman Hall of Planet Earth

  • 46 elements
  • 32 elements

IRIS/ USGS

display

slide5
Display Layout

NMNH Plate Tectonics Gallery

AMNH Gottesman Hall of Planet Earth

slide6
Quantitative Evaluation Results
  • Attracting Power – Tracking and Timing
    • NMNH - 38% of visitors stopped (1 of 46 elements)
    • AMNH - 41% of visitors stopped (1 of 32 elements)

Holding Power – Tracking and Timing

    • NMNH - 0:46 or 0.8 minutes median stop time/visitor (6 of 46)
    • AMNH - 1:23 or 1.4 minutes median stop time/visitor (1 of 32)

Cumulative Stop Time – Tracking and Timing

    • NMNH - 30.8 minutes (1 of 46 by 5+ minutes)
    • AMNH - 64.2 minutes (1 of 32 by 22 minutes)

Total Number of Stopped Visitors – Sweeps

    • NMNH - 210 visitors or 11% of all stops (1 of 46)
    • AMNH - 283 visitors or 15% of all stops (1 of 32)

Most Liked or Interesting Part of the PTG – Exit Interviews

    • NMNH - 27% of all responses (1 of 46)
slide7
Understanding the Display’s Success:

Real Time Information

Interview Results

What attracted you to the display?

Interest in earthquakes

Other

Plasma monitor

(22% at both the NMNH

& AMNH)

Real time information

(11% at the NMNH

& 20% at the AMNH)

Triple drum

Location of home

slide8
Understanding the Display’s Success:

Real Time Information

Interview Results

What did you like best about this display?

Other

Make your own

earthquake*

6%

Real time / up to date

information (31% at both

the NMNH & AMNH)

9%

Global information

2%

Easy to understand

2%

31%

Interactive

3%

7%

Triple drum

9%

20%

Overall presentation

10%

Map of recent earthquakes/

(plasma monitor)

Small monitor with

updated list

* Only present in the PTG at the NMNH

slide9
Understanding the Display’s Success:

Real Time Information

Examples of Visitor Responses

“[It was] very interesting to see what just happened only a few minutes ago.”

“I recognized [the drum, but had] never seen one actively working.”

“[I like that it is] up to date, and I heard in the news this morning that there was in earthquake in Illinois this morning and there it was.”

“[The] way they were able to bring [the information] to you in real time.”

“I was surprised at the number of earthquakes it showed, and how it was able to show all the locations”

slide10
Understanding the Display’s Success:

Real Time Information

Interview Results

What information did you find the most interesting or surprising?

Other

Real time / up to date

Frequency of earthquakes

Particular event(s)

Where earthquakes occur

“[That the] Earth is moving even though we don’t notice it.”

“That there are so many minor earthquakes every day.”

“That they had earthquakes clear across the United States.”

slide11
What Makes Science Interesting?

Herbal Medicines

Climate Change

Genetically Modified

Foods

  • Practicing Scientist
  • Current / Hot Topic
  • Sexy / Popular Culture
  • Science in action

Relevant to our lives

Cloning

Stem Cell Research

Euthanasia

Space Exploration

slide12
Relevance and Museum Displays

“Most important, the link between the museum and the visitor’s life needs to be

made clear.” (Csikszentmihalyi and Hermanson, 1995)

“In order to make meaning of our experience, we need to be able to connect it with what we already know.” (Hein, 1999)

“…we must find ways to reach visitors, building bridges to their past experiences

and knowledge.” (Jeffrey, 1998)

Do real time displays offer more opportunities for connections between visitors and the display? Do they increase relevance for visitors?

slide13
Didactic Earthquake Displays

Did You Know?

  • Earthquakes are the geological forces of the Earth that build mountains and

create ocean. They are nature’s reminder that we are living on the thin outer

crust of a planet that is cooling.

  • Each year, approximately 800,000 earthquakes are recorded worldwide. Most

are too small to be felt, but typically at least one is a great earthquake.

  • The Earth’s outer crust is divided into plates.

Earthquakes occur when plates move under

over, or slide past each other.

  • Earthquakes typically occur along plate
  • boundaries
slide14
Interactive / Hands-On Earthquake Displays

Activities:

  • Shake a city in a pan of sand and water
  • Watch video footage of the Great Alaskan Earthquake, 1964
  • Use a slinky to visualize how seismic waves travel through the Earth
  • Use a computer to simulate an earthquake.

Choose the magnitude and epicentre

  • Record your own seismic waves by jumping in

front of a seismograph

slide15
Real Time Earthquake Displays

Watch Earthquakes Occur

slide16
Real Time Earthquake Displays

Watch Earthquakes Occur

slide17
Earthquake Displays

Didactic

Interactive/Hands-On

Discovery and constructivist

Visual / auditory / tactile / social learning

Museum as discovery center / edutainment

Transmission

Visual learning

Museum as authority

Real Time

Discovery and constructivist

Visual / social learning

Museums providing current science information

Increases relevance / connection to the visitor

BEST RESULTS: Combine all three

slide18
Learning Theories

Falk & Dierking’s

Contextual Model of Learning

Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow Experience

  • Hook
  • Opportunities for involvement
    • sensory, intellectual, emotional
  • Conditions for flow
    • clear goals
    • challenges that match a wide variety of visitor skill levels
    • choice
    • a supportive environment
  • Growth of complexity in consciousness
    • sensory, intellectual emotional
  • Learning as an integrated experience
    • Personal, sociocultural,
    • and physical contexts
    • Time

Piaget’s Learning Theory

Accommodation and Assimilation

slide19
Challenges Facing Real Time Exhibits
  • Technology
  • Cost ($ and staff resources)
  • Maintenance
  • Need scientific expertise
  • Need dynamic subjects

Possible Topics:

Weather

Population clock

Deforestation clock

Live video feeds

Exhibits Must:

Be active / change continually

Present new or interesting ideas to visitors “a-ha”

Allow visitors of all skill levels to understand content

Provide on-going learning opportunities inside and

outside of the museum

slide20
Acknowledgements

Ellen Giusti Coordinator of Exhibit Evaluation, American Museum of Natural History

Paul Kimberly Computer Specialist – Global Volcanism Program, NMNH

Dr. James Luhr Geologist & Mineral Sciences Department Chairman, AMNH

Dr. Ed Mathez Chairman, Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences & Curator, Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, AMNH

Barbara Soren Graduate Coordinator, Museum Studies, University of Toronto

John Taber Education & Outreach Program Manager, IRIS

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