Intersections between Natural History Museum assets and 21st Century Audience Engagement Opportunities

Facilitator: Becky Menlove

Recorder: Karen Knutson


The 21st Century has already brought with it a broad, deep array of audience engagement opportunities that enhance and/or expand previous strategies and/or offer new possibilities that we are just starting to grasp. There is also the potential for exponential growth in opportunities to connect with our audience that we have not yet imagined.

This conference theme explores the intersection of historical and current natural history museum assets and these new engagement strategies.

Natural History Museum Assets

As a starting place for discussion, we consider the following unique assets of natural history museums:

  • Collections, Data, and Evidence. Natural history museums contain vast collections of objects and specimens, as well as terabytes of data derived from those collections and their histories, that tell the story of the Earth and its peoples since their origins. Objects, the data surrounding their collection, and the research conducted with them - including new areas of research enabled by technologies such as genomic sequencing - form a unique foundation for public engagement, learning, and participation among informal science education providers.
  • "Built-in" Research Communities. Many natural history museums have one or more research scientists, collections managers, curators, and other scientific and technical staff that energize education, public, and outreach opportunities with active scientific research.
  • Historical Perspectives on Nature and Culture. The research conducted at natural history museums and with natural history collections, data, and evidence is a specialized type of science that usually incorporates long term perspectives on nature and culture. This historical view - and the educational opportunities it affords - provide critical insights for understanding current science and cultural challenges, such as climate change and language loss.
  • Large-scale Exhibits. Many natural history museums provide large-scale exhibits that have provided a basic understanding and inspiration to explore nature and culture for generations. Exhibits and the tradition of exhibiting are important assets to be considered in connecting with audiences in new ways.
  • Partnerships. Natural history museums are a part of a larger, broader landscape of learning about nature and culture. Perhaps moreso than any other type of museum, the content of natural history museums is supported through informal interactions at home and outdoors, as well as by a wealth of additional informal learning institutions and organizations, including nature centers, zoos, aquariums, and camps. Existing and potential partnerships are important assets in advancing informal natural history education.

21st Century Audience Engagement Opportunities

The preconference discussions on ASTC Connect identified six overlapping audience engagement opportunities that are new or have the potential to transform relationships between natural history museums and their audiences in the 21st Century.

  • Programs and Audiences. The 21st Century is bringing with the potential for a broad expansion of audiences beyond those traditionally served by natural history museums. New audiences suggest exciting opportunities for new, collaborative programming opportunities. We need to understand our audiences and their needs to develop new approaches to engaging and involving them in the work of natural history museums.
  • Rapid Response and Current Science. In response to increasing awareness of scientific challenges and increasing expectations for current information, it is important that we identify, develop, and test ways to engage our publics in using natural history collections, content, research, and processes to understand current science events.
  • Participatory Experiences. 21st Century audiences are so far accustomed to active participants in their own entertainment and education. Exploring the intersections of participatory culture, media use and creation, and natural history collections, content, research, and processes to involve our publics more fully in the life and activity of natural history museums.
  • Learning Across Natural History Settings. The historical and new informal education providers provide a context within which to identify the strongest niche for natural history museums in lifelong learning. Identifying and synthesizing the strengths of natural history museums as they are unique from and overlap with those of organizations with similar goals and missions is a vital task. We need to consider how existing models apply to building experiences that enhance lifelong learning across natural history settings.
  • Technology Integration. Scientific and communication technology advances are opening up new avenues for engagement and participation. It is critical that we examine how scientific and communications technologies can enhance learning in natural history museums; the optimal audiences, occasions, and uses for technology; and the limits of technology for learning in and about nature.
  • Priority Content. Understanding how the assets of natural history museums can contribute in unique ways to understanding highly relevant content for 21st Century audiences, including evolution, climate change, and biological and cultural diversity loss is essential to identifying how best to link our audiences and our resources to address 21st Century scientific challenges.

Linking Assets and Opportunities

One way to conceptualize the opportunities to advance our practice is by a grid that creates an area of overlap between and among these assets and opportunities. The working group will consider how the different assets and opportunities overlap in multiple ways to identify potential areas of innovation and the research agenda necessary for us to learn together about how best to bring them about.

Rapid Response/
Current Science
Learning Across Settings
Participatory Experiences
Technology Integration
Priority Content
Collections, Data, Evidence
Possible area of overlap between and among assets and opportunities
Scientific Community
Historical Perspective
Staff and volunteers
Notes from our conversation:
Need to think about different age groups/needs in our audiences.
multigenerational and social make-up of groups.
the 8 minute or less attention span.
21st c--how to provide more stuff for those who are ready for it? object--museum provides only label id, vs. someone who wants more!
providing for comfort--you can shift attention span by changing environment.

self selection of our audience. what about those who don't visit? it's a huge missed audience. why don't they come?
how would we bring our content to them? do we go to the mall?
relevance is what brings them. i.e. west nile virus. went to collections and made exhibit about life cycle of the virus. reactionary--so it wasn't our best effort, but it spiked attendance. RELEVANCE builds credibility.

museums vs. football games. audience and time requirements. can we piece out smaller bits of experience for those who want something different. it's not just about those who come in the door.

multi-platform. we need to bring our diverse staff together to collaborate on those different pieces.

mid and high school audience and older adults--Albuquerque--low numbers of these groups. they did mall promotion--300.00 spent get free tickets for museum visit. be open minded and think of new ways to reach people. free senior day on wednesday. but they don't know about it.

find the audience/ rapid response--two important aspects.

why does it draw people? if you have right pr--is that it?!

what makes us special and unique--people can just google it. why would they choose us?

partnerships--nmnh trying to reach out into communities.
cmnh-when you partner--amateur science groups or teens--to do something--they bring their network too. ownership feeling.

volunteers are invested in the institution--have to help others to feel that special relationship with the museum.

context matters--why science matters. why natural history matters. i.e. west nile, NPS guy why it matters to policy. strong natural history of local environments. e.g. was about haiti. they taught civics--earthquakes. it's a civic duty to understand your environment. local knowledge has been key to survival. i.e. local crops. viruses, etc. biology class--frog dissection i didn't get it but the broader context is why it was important.

margaret: west nile-e.g. -did you talk about universals? local connected to global context. i see it missing--can you use it as a great opportunity to connect to bigger picture. it was in the programming not in the exhibit.
another set of assets--programming on key concepts, and collections + local context. if you have those available you are ready to tackle emergency rapid response issues!

should we prioritize on current visitors more engaged, or getting new visitors?!
we have influentials- if we empower them--they can go out and spread the word. but we also need to think about those who don't come.

cmnh: what is the core set of ideas that go across all experiences? we don't have that yet. some museums have a core issue. utah does. ecology evolution and diversity. they also do rapid response- but that is hard.
florida: working towards common issues, but partnering--means that you have to shift it a bit. we advocate a flexible framework. partnerships have been pretty productive.

communicate across divisions to be agile. we're still figuring it out!
museum that doesn't have a lot of research oakland museum--reaches out to community scientists. different set of issues.

personality typing--marketing--helps us communicate better with our different audiences. briggs meyers. zoo had a professional do it. manager decision makers esp. to get better dept. communication. it is working.
need to develop communication skills in our staff.

getting researchers involved with the public. it's not time away from your work! others love their work so much and they are so engaging--spread the enthusiasm to others. ability to engage.

Visitors are also an asset!!

communication is not just in person! scientific process--on Facebook, etc. 3000 a week, 10 million web visitors a year. not we tell them. we engage on their terms!

who has people who does the Facebook thing--it dies off. but lynda her museum has a team that manages social media. need to engage the staff to maintain it. interest in figuring out that structure as many institutions don't have that capacity. we can bring these ideas back home, as we need new ways to think about these issues.

another example--creating a Facebook team across the museum as they lost their marketing person. it can work. we try to engage scientists in it too. dino-bites. nuggets that go out. 2 sentences every friday.

there is a strength to being small?

dallas institution is not siloed --but... we need educated in social media, etc. sending fossils out to be remounted--good for social media. but social media doesn't solve it all. building--sense of place--need to experience the place. the building. specialness of the physical space.

antiquated views of tech in museums.

hamster wheel of temporary exhibits. raise money new stuff to get more turnstile. while permanent exhibitions languish.

authentic experience. we're better than wikipedia!

chicago staff get media training--some do on camera things, some distill things for Facebook.

on display workspace--4 hours allotted to get one hour of real work done.

florida: broader impacts--need to do something more than your work in the office. you need to engage people. also we work with academics --they need broader impacts too.

margaret--science cafe for broader impacts. also amazing outreach programs. libraries are good places in detroit--for broader impacts. toyota program. library program and then to museum. bringing in new populations.
demographic shifts. how to engage public schools diverse illiterate audiences who'd never go to the museum. important to reach these groups. collections go to the libraries. undergrads who do it. competition for docent program. scientists develop/ students deliver it.

science journalists? need for translators

message in a minute--classes for staff. for janitors and all. monterrey bay eg. --messages behind the museum--mission level.

boston eg--all science communicators. so all focused on visitor. larger museums --disadvantage as we're siloed. social media in marketing. all gimmicky! nice to think that it could be supported throughout the museum. fans are not the measure of how successful we are. small museums--i'm envious.

does Facebook work? yes. or no. --how do you measure it? end of session one conversation.

conversation two: where does your wonder come from?

  • sheep story: perspective of the sheep. interesting stories coming from different disciplinary perspectives (not always from science).
  • young children --seeing things from their perspective.
  • 15% objects on the floor--3 exhibits--how can we better use those spaces to tell the story. nature happens in urban places too. challenge for us to do more with that. passion around natural mysteries.
  • we added "and science" to our title, but it's not really happening. where will we be in the next 25 years. will we do more science? we do good paleo. but how do we bring in more science. nuclear science is a good local story. we could branch out there. high school ap english teacher first took me to a museum. i knew about my career at that moment. we need to start looking in other disciplines. we are redoing our mission now.
  • blank spaces on a map always fascinate me! i always went to nhmuseums. i wonder about my institution. how we will impact sense of wonder to our visitors.
  • so what does wonder feel like? in the heart? how do you get at that feeling? Becky.
  • sucked into administrivia! reminder of why i got into the business being at this conference.
  • how to make science relevant to people. that's how we get folks here. local communities--how do we engage those more? and they're very diverse.
  • why would anyone go to a museum. i wonder about that! and how do you build bridges between expectations and goals of visitors and museums. they're not always overlapping goals! lofty science goals etc. that's not the goal of the visitor!!
  • personal wonder draws me in. how can classroom teachers use museums as resources. urban advantage program. that brought me back to a museum and got me excited.
  • curator at a zoo--started in art, i wonder a lot--we're telling people what to do. but if we don't walk the walk if there's no relevance to your institution the message breaks down. we try to share the message across all depts. okla. hunter fisherman based demographics --we're partnering with them to do surveys. all staff are invited to participate--to share that knowledge increase awareness. conservation committee--selection of groups important--thinking about how to get local folks involved. messaging--how do we get it across. live animals makes it easier. trying to get zookeepers more engaged with the public.
  • how do you locate the value of an onsite visit in the context of a person's life. is it a pebble -minor experience or a transitional moment? what kinds of experiences are transformational for what kind of people. also the physicality of objects--what about that.
  • cult of the scientist. authority elsewhere has shifted--everyone is a reporter now. are we doing a disservice by putting the scientist on a pedestal. shift from outdoors to indoor live to dead in her work. paradox of outside and inside. and parent now--so now back into outdoors in a major way.
  • nature --inspiring others to learn in the bigger context. how do i communicate that importance to others. does nature equal science??!! nature and natural history is more than science. i don't want to lose sight of that.
  • who we serve and who we don't. water quality etc--institutions are the there other ways of presenting science information where we impact people who don't get through the door. another role for us. how do we reach them, is it a practical goal.
  • minds--interested in minds--esp. children. how does that develop. bird eg. pictures, taxidermy birds, age groups--taxidermy birds--close up view. drawings are interpretations. older kids interested in how they died. shift in thinking at age level. see the natural world from different age groups--that would be interesting.
  • inadequacies in conveying information in museums--to kids. i.e. tactile biodiversity. nhm generate knowledge about that. nature centers are a step removed from that but they have tactile biodiversity. these kind of institutions complement each other. the tactile biodiversity inspired me! i am frustrated about american children--so destructive! other cultures have different orientations in the zoos.
  • what's next for our museum. we built it. took a lot of new approaches. embarking on evaluation. hard moment for museum--end of a cycle burnout. now how do we look at what we accomplished. i think we've got some good notes hit, how do we give a big experience and excitement. kinesthetic learning but don't wreck the place! litigious aspect.
  • disconnect between nature and science (particular notion of the science is valued). institutional perspective--do all museums have the kind of grand vision that NHM do? nature does not equal science in some circles.
  • igniting the power of art. randi korn's art museum different experiences--materials techniques, one perspective. others taken, tactile, deep knowledge, scientists. figure out how to get people involved the process of science--to get engaged in that. scientist who used a lot of techniques to discover where a species could live. museums have different personalities. how to be place based and talk about the big picture.

making decisions--age/ interests--what do you bring to that moment to move them along a little bit?
transformational moments or incremental moments.
can you see the visceral experience in people in the museum?
passenger pigeon eg. different audiences--donor wow moment gets to see the prized object vs. many wow moments of many children (who can't see it). how to balance where you put your chips.
how do we define audience--is it just the children--or insider audiences--professional audience, volunteers docents. special experiences for some. who do we think of impacts for a broader swath of audiences.
depth of experience--number of experiences, how do we decide where to place our bets. teen programs with great impacts vs. annual field trip. onion metaphor of kinds of experiences.
finding opportunities to personalize the experience for visitors. capture what they're doing and look at it later. vs. scale. how do you prioritize and resource these experiences. can we have museum staff spend an hour on the floor? one weekend day --leadership on the floor. a valued thing, and yet several museums have cancelled this program.
should public face workers spend time behind the scenes as well then?

we've got finished exhibit spaces to a more dynamic presentation--things changing, seeing a staff person and interacting with them. not just a rote tour, but more interactive experience with a person. place where you can make your own collection.
we do visitor research--monitoring--shows that family time is a big reason people come. surveyed people about favorites and exhibits to change. some favorites were the old ones. dioramas loved. even if they're out of date.
study in oakland dioramas were helpful to start multigenerational conversations esp among multilingual families.
flashlight tours of old dioramas.
rebirth of taxidermy. steampunk hipsters. love em. beauty of them.
also beauty of fossils.
new designers push to get rid of the old-but these are the things that are connections for repeat visits. that they want to show their kids.
dioramas starting conversations.
artistry of nature--another way of looking at audiences who might not come for the science. dioramas are a good example.
museums can create multi species exhibits, zoos can't.
nhm advantage also you can see things close up. non-moving things.

digitizing collections? i digbio. goal to have collections with info available. scientific community can use them but also amateurs birders, etc. how to get people to use them?
value of collections--how to show it. not just for collections and science staff but something that others can use.
how do you do herbariums vs. other kinds of specimens, what kind of data becomes available. location is something you might not way to show! huge undertaking very expensive. storage issue. are people using it?
good cross institution resource.
it's a resource but...

history of wildlife loss in oakland.
artist maya lin project--what's missing--bring in stories of how people's landscapes have changed.
value of collections to historians too. would be interesting to explore. WW1 photos. there's an obligation to put it out there, but we haven't yet.

accessioning and deaccessioning. is this an issue? they're all growing. florida accepted confiscated butterfly collection--some for teaching collection and some in research.
oakland: walt disney butterlfy collection--only half were CA so we took the whole collection, but we typically focus on CA stuff.
australia--stamp collection. you can't get rid of it.
zero strings attached. on new policies but there's old collections that you can't get rid of.
zoo--challenges of accession and deaccession. why take one? is it for a program, research, breeding etc. shouldn't be hoarding and breeding! AZA raises the bar in how we care for the animals, that's helped a lot to prioritize.
live animals at science museum--stopped accepting snakes--criteria of acceptable habitat. publics perspective is very different--aza said it was ok, public not ok. fish vs. mice as food. life/ death etc. cutting down trees in public spaces --chicago --can't do it. even if they're invasive.
cats indoor vs. outdoor. difficult perspectives on what's ok. cats kill birds.
you can't give in! pick your battles.
advocacy comes up at this point! you're taking a stance on animals. we do know what's right. we need to do it. not dictatorial.
evolution --state by state issue. zoo can't put it in signage. adaptation can be used though. rattle snake roundups we're addressing that. pushing the issue.

oakland--where do we get the animals from we're indicating where we got them. human institution is acknowledged. addressing the who killed it question!

kids aren't' exposed to death anymore. pre-1955 still killing animals for the mounts.

wrap up--is there an innovation out there that sticks in your mind?
digitization. dealing with collections.
evolution is one!
not high tech. making own choices and element of surprise is enough. the wow factor.
high tech things don't age well. dioramas are still favored--old school. we can do interactives at home (and better there too). provide things you can't do at home.

Working Group Recommendations

The space below is an active, real-time record of the deliberations, ideas, recommendations, and concerns of the working group. It is intended to start as a note-taking space and take shape as the ideas take shape. Format is flexible: Paragraphs, questions, bulleted lists, and other strategies are welcome.

Summary of the Opportunity

The working group should provide their own input or ideas on the core opportunities of linking natural history assets with these emerging engagement opportunities and realities in the 21st century. Why is it important to make these links? What is the potential for growth and innovation? What would audience experiences look like if we were to be successful at making these links? What are the consequences of not pursuing new ways to link resources to new engagement opportunities?

see the scientist in action. how do we do that. 35% of time should be public engagement. but some do school stuff too. we don't have an overall vision of how scientists should work with public.

Foundational Research and Best Practices

This section will grow during and after the conference. The tagging exercise at has identified research and evaluation reports relevant to learning in natural history settings that could be brought to bear as foundational research and best practices. The working group is encouraged to add their own knowledge of applicable research and evaluation, as well as best practices (projects, programs, museums, etc.) at the intersections of natural history assets and opportunities.

Opportunities for Innovation

The working group will expand on its identification of the potential for growth and innovation and what audience experiences "look like" as explored in the Summary of the Opportunity. Here it will be useful to explore two different avenues of opportunity: 1) Ideas for innovation that are or are not "shovel ready". The less formed and more grandiose ideas are those that are likely to help identify critical questions in the next section; 2) Hypotheses about what the group thinks might be an effective innovation, for whom, under what circumstances, and so on.

Day three: summary of big ideas:
1audience--public is an asset not just who we serve.
2evolution--content topic is a pressing issue. are there others?
3science communication is a big topic for us. many different angles. how do we train for that? are there silos. what kind of structure will encourage better science communication.
4collections accessibility. to what end.
5partnerships--challenges of working together on common issues--how to maintain your organization's trajectory
6cross pollination and collaboration--on the floor in communities and social media
7building a sense of place. focus on local vs. global problems.
8wow experiences--turning people onto science. how do we keep creating this. provide surprise, new ways of looking. real objects, real science, can we create wow moments with that.
9where does authority lie in the museum--cult of the scientsit
10transformational moments in museum vs. incremental moments of learning
11high tech vs. low tech
12role of museums in advocacy.

Discussing what we should talk about in our mini groups--discussing #2. should it be broader?
what do we do uniquely as natural history museums. better stewardship? what is the big picture? evolution is one big issue, ecology is one, biodiversity is another.
but you have to give up some messages to focus on others. we're focusing on sense of place--you need to love it to save it. we're not doing earth messages in that, to focus on this single message. stewardship--to work on community focus. we want to move every person a little bit on that message.

the power of our institutions is that we're all a little bit different. other ones are world cultures and place based learning. so do we talk about evolution alone or do we talk more broadly about content focal areas.

Authority-advocacy. how do we select the pressing issues--our convo is focusing on biota. there are bigger issues.
  • ie. resource driven issues in world (i.e. water issues in the middle east?)
  • no--too big a topic for the short moments we have people?
  • i would love to have a big focal message for the institution. there is a story we could tap into across experiences. shared thing could help us--we can tie it back to the big issue. stink bugs could be related back to the big pictures that we're talking about at this meeting (i.e. big three issues).
  • we do a lot of this well. how do we become relevant to the public. once they're there we communicate well to them. but how do we become more relevant and necessary for the public. i.e. does name natural history capture what we do, or put people off? rapid response programming isn't enough to keep our doors open. we're not thinking enough about a visitor centered approach when we think about these big issues.
  • balance point for each institution. how much for big pillars of info and how much for rapid response. build credibility that way with your audience. there should be building blocks plus flexibility for rapid response.
  • we pre-plan content for some rapid response issues we know will come up--it's in our pocket.
  • but our conversation about passion and wow. people aren't going to remember sense of wonder from a current science topic. the rapid response program is not the hope diamond.
  • is the question then about mode of delivery? is it real object, or program, or ?
  • we shouldn't always be reactionary. we need to be proactive. planning for the transformative moment.
  • is it about being influential?
  • no it's about teaching them the core stuff. by having them learn.
  • wow is not necessary for learning. we need a wow that's focused towards the thing we want them to learn.
  • so people like the idea of having a big picture framework. we can collaborate and share this big framework. rapid response can be done more easily when the framework is in place and the larger museums can help support others.

So is this our group's innovation? Creating a big picture framework we can agree on.
Question is: does your institution work on this framework?
do they have it in a way that it can connect to local concerns?
it's programming, exhibitions, collections, scientists--looking across these parts of the institution to see how the framework is playing out.

Our unique place among museums is the collection--so our work should build upon it.
framework could apply to both nature centers, zoos, natural history museums.

network of museums could help to fill gaps in our own work? is that useful or possible?
  • my institution lacks some of the disciplines. forest fires is a rapid response issue, but we'd need to find someone who is an expert to do something on that issue.
  • paleontology museum--using the ecology evoluation divestiry framework--so not just ferns and t-rex is cool, but we need to relate pigeons to t-rex. and relating other aspects to the t-rex to current day environment. broader connections should be made.
  • need to make sure that wow connects to some aspect of the experience that we care about.
  • balance between wow and flow experience.
  • shouldn't be just big bones. should be connecting to the other content.
  • how do we identify what the portals should be. those moments that are rich enough to build upon.
  • herp example--we're taxonomic--so that works for evolution. others are moving to more bio geo orientation so you can't make that story anymore.
  • we're looking for the counter-intuitive examples that's how we learn. we make reasonable assumptions--the different examples can be very instructive. and we can do those in any institution size.

Let's talk about these experiences in different formats--the offsite or online experience? can we be transformative there?
  • yes we have outreach. zoo--we go to expositions for hunters and fishers etc. natural history museums weren't there doing outreach.
  • outreach that isn't science based. i.e. bay area literature interests hipster topics. pop up magazine. i did a thing on turkey vultures. unusual suspect. nature in the middle of literature program. how can we infuse natural science into other venues/ audiences.
  • outreach is not the only way though--depends on who you're trying to reach. i.e. national audience.

i still feel like we need one big issue. anthropocene? nature? that seems very powerful as a way to orient our work.
  • nsf framework --we picked subcategories to focus on. we could look for traces of the orientation in visitors conversations.
  • a singular view --we're part of nature. that could work. it's positive and it could work at all levels of institutions. we could tackle different points of the framework according to our strengths. that seems innovative. has the field all tried different aspects of the same framework.
  • we could develop a way to asses that.
  • we don't know what our visitors know and think about their role and connection to nature, either. we'd need to do that too.
  • then we can look at how we can change it. if we had a common set of questions we'd have a big research project.

we could see our role as understanding/ presenting change.
then effective are we at explaining the change.

we're part of nature. we're changing.
that's a huge shift- as people don't see nature as changing?

what about the role of humans in change? nah....not everything, and we're not in charge of changing all things.
but we also need to keep that stewardship message. you can be a part of change.

ok we're digressing--is there a big framework we could agree on?

are our institutions set up in such a way that they can change visitors understanding?

two ways to think of the framework.
stewardship point of view
or thinking of yourself as part of it biological point of view.
--or is it about are people connected or disconnected from nature.

diversity is a good thing across our institutions. we can test different things.

repetitiion is a good thing. across museums. same message.

back to natural history name--way of knowing and thinking. how do we get public onboard.
  • observational sciences-unites nhm, zoo nature centers.
  • squirrel project--observe, compare, can you recognize this other species?
  • natural history as a field is robust and healthy. but we lost the public somewhere. changed the name. now we're talking about also losing the nature from the name! public doesn't understand who we are or why we're here.

Any other research questions people want to mention about the framework idea.

technology piece--pressure on work to turn it away from collections.
no, it's about how do we use cross platform tools to engage people in the processes and ideas we care about.
trail head app--helps you locate the object in utah--and back to museum.
tools should be used in service of nature.
urban e.g.--that place is no a high rise and not a habitat. so how do you use that app to advocate to preserve?

Critical Questions and Directions for Research and Evaluation

This section will identify critical questions about audience experiences and learning. This section is the crux of the work of the group because it is intended to identify a broad range of critical practical questions that need to be addressed to move forward with identified potential innovations, as well as critical theoretical questions related to what, how, when, and why people learn in and around natural history museums and assets. The ultimate product should be a set of prioritized, nested questions organized in a way that makes sense to the group. The questions should address the critical challenges identified through preconference and first day activities.

Challenges and Opportunities for Collaboration

This section is intended to capture the challenges and opportunities for collaboration within and between natural history museums relevant to the intersection of these assets and opportunities. This section should identify key challenges, key opportunities, and important research questions about how we work together within and across museums to break down traditional "silos" that could hinder our progress.


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