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

Facilitator: Kevin Crowley

Recorder: Grace Kimble

Beck Tench, Director for Innovation and Digital Engagement- Museum of Life and Science
Bronwyn Jones, Manager - Alaska Museum of Natural History
Christine Chandler, Curator of Natural Science- Putnam Museum of History and Natural Science
Colleen Marzec, Nicholas Pyenson, Curator of Fossil Marine Mammals- National Museum of Natural History
Judy Diamond, Professor and Curator of Informal Science Education, University of Nebraska State Museum- Life on Earth Project
Judy Tasse, Exhibit Developer- National Zoological Park
Kathleen Tinworth, Director of Visitor Research and Program Evaluation- Denver Museum of Nature and Science
Madlyn Runberg, Director of School Programs; Scott Sampson, Research Curator - Natural History Museum of Utah
Maureen Flannery, Collections Manager of Ornithology and Mammalogy- California Academy of Sciences
Rafael Rosa, VP of Education- Chicago Academy of Sciences- Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum
Reiko Trow, Education and Volunteer Programs Assistant- Harold L. Lyon Arboretum
Rhiannon Crain, Learning Researcher- Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Ro Kinzler, Director of the National Center for Science, Literacy, Education, and Technology, AMNH


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

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?

Learning research- questions we ask about learning.
By understanding learning better, we will drive practice to a more powerful place.


  • museums as dynamic, open insitutions where partnerships and collaboration are assets. Position of museum relative to other natural history communication modes- journalism e.g. evolution example, tv example: Quest,San Francisco Bay area.
  • Core asset- cross bridging collaboartions
  • “In practice, we are collaborating with university departments, entities that are outside walls of NH e.g. UPCLOSE in partnership with Pitt and Carnegie. NH Museums are not closed. That's where the innovation is happening. Re frame what the museum encompasses”
  • role of agencies, grant giving organisations in mediating partnerships
  • 31 years ago at exploratorium- Oppenheimer conference about how media and inf science learning could support each other. For 30 years people have been doing that in creative ways.
  • look at NH relative to other nature communication organisations:
  • “ in early nineties partnership was not common. Now it is night and day. It has become essential over the last few years”.
  • AMNH working with scientists for all sorts of programs and funding bids.
  • NGOs share values, but don't have any stuff. IUCN- network of expertise e.g. community programs.
  • “what can we bring to the party?”

  • KC:Do museums feel open and connected?
  • Examples- Exhibit development- process involves brining in others outside the institution.
  • Project by project basis. Strategic?
  • Not all museums feel connected.

  • Historical partnerships- museums as community collections in 19th century, then 20th century modernist didactic approach, now doors more open again- citizen science, things are changing
  • “for most of the history it has been a one way street”.
  • Is that the same for regional vs local museums?

  • Collections- Some nh organisations are just buildings e.g. National Geographic.
  • We have the collections, we need to broaden it out using digital means or otherwise to bring it into the 21st century.

  • “beautiful buildings- revisioning nh museums, take it back outside the museum”

  • Brand recognition. The public knows what to expect. May not be an asset.

  • We need to include educational community of museum as an asset. For example, if there is an NSF funding call then you need people who have good relationships and reputation in community to get bids in and actions happening.
  • Programs need to be there.
  • Science community as an asset, education community needs to be there as an asset.
  • Or- All of that is about learning and education, Education programs tie the assets together.
  • educators who are part of a national conversation about expertise?
  • Staff are the ones who will innovate and make these meaningful.
  • Whether they are exhibit developers or education they are assets.
  • Beck- Science Museum with animals, no scientists.
  • Animal keepers, poop scoopers. Low status. Blog- became educators, raised status.


  • Are visitors an asset?
  • Are communities an asset?

Local culture
  • Local culture is an asset.

History of collection
  • Longitudinal aspect of collection is key, as is the physical place.

  • Scientists: The science component comes from all the trappings- academic, intellectual- part of core strength.
  • You wouldn’t have the scientists if you didnt have the collection.

Evaluation: seeing visitor viewpoint

  • What are the types of results that you get when you look at the motivations for coming to nh museums?
  • Zoos- visiting for experience, entire environment. When pressed, animals-visible-moving.
  • But also- outside, leisure elements of visit.

  • Do people say that they come to nh museums for the environment? Does it make a difference, for example if you change the environment, make it more light? We have built a new building to be a welcoming public space.

  • They come to be entertained. If people visit to be entertained, does that mean it is our role? Or should we be trying to educate them about biological conservation?
  • Do we have a mandate to go beyond what they want?

  • They want an enjoyable experience, something on their agenda, mix and match and pick things.
  • Example of research. In two surveys two years apart, two separate consultants:. 1st survey was framed in conservation and learning content. Rated highly as an education experience. Two years they asked: do you come to be educated? 20% said yes.
  • Who is asking the question is also important.If people think you are from the museum they will answer differently.

  • Asking children: did you have fun? What was your favourite part? Looking to see- did they learn somthing factual? Did they make any connections about lufe cycles? Did they appreciate the natural environment? Have they got the skills to look after the future environment?

  • Digital project assets- extra time in lives. Doing stuff with an organisation with a mutual sense of purpose. Outlet for their sense of purpose.

  • Quest project in San Francisco- broadcast journalism, tv, nature walks. Unified in a format that the public have different options. San Francisco bay area. You can find out about the natural world using all of the kinds of science media. Interesting way to break down the divisions, seeing it from a visitor perspective- what can these settings offer and how are they inter-related?

  • Sociobiological research question 'what do you think of when you think of natural history museums?'

  • Are your programs driven by key concepts that you want to communicate to your audience?

  • Zoos: Collections change significantly over 5-7 years. Research and conservation agenda in zoos is being refined- difficult for them to formulate and be consistent with because they always have the opportunity to change collection. E.g. zoos are scrambling to get polar bears to link to climate change. e.g. there are 142 spaces for polar bears and only 72 bears! They are the most iconic exhibitis.

  • NH museums- commitment to conserving collection. Different to environment centres, science museums. This hasn’t come up in conversation yet- is it implicit? And if it is implicit to this group, is that something to focus on that as a field, we don’t ‘see’ anymore? (like neuron fatigue)

  • 'Exhibits focused around education rather than collections' New direction.

  • Goal- the scientific communities that the museum communities will have to be to do science. Change in audience as a result?

  • Agreeing goals in the Internal/external community. About discovering more about whats out there in the natural world. Located in large urban centres to connect population to nature.

  • Open network. We think the same about conservation, change in communities. We can be different but aiming for similar outcomes. Network would be funded more readily. We need to leverage the open network of what we are doing. We need to move past challenges, we do have an opportunity to work together, if we can agree. Example- Bristol Natural History Consortium in UK?
  • What would it take to mobilise that vision?

  • Opportunity around a new building to review strategic objectives.

  • History of life through time, biodiversity in the present, consequences of impacts on human biodiversity. Underlying principles that connect to evolution. One of the things that natural history museums have are resources to teach about evolution- outreach, media, exhibits, education programs. If people could understand how evolution works it would open the door to understanding other huge issues. Role of nh museums is to help teach evolution.

  • Example- strategic planning happened separately for education and science, no meeting place.Good outcome- board has funded education and research.

  • Connecting education and collections- no choice- I am the natural scientist. If I don't do education, it doesnt happen.

  • Place where you can go to direct your desire to do something that's more than a game, that is meangingful. Not just a place, can be home or backyard.
  • Discovery as a key element that should be shared with visitors. Visitors need to discover something new, the driving force behind programs.
  • Public love speaking with scientists. Museums more friendly spaces to speak to scientists than a professor at a university. Public, collections , people, staff, connecting groups all together- it's academic.
  • What if, for museums to move forward, what they have to do is go outside and connect with discipline based learning?
  • How to get NH museums to move into 21st century- should we forget we are nh settings and move into other places? We are remarkable institutions, but to move to a new place maybe we have to be extreme.
  • How are NH museums different from other institutions that were created around the same time?
  • With a common genesis, are they still relevant today?
  • How connected and how multiplatform should it be?
  • We need to address the question from nh direction perspectives, where are we going?
  • Is the end goal to preserve nh museum or to convey science learning?
  • Are you trying to move away from the core, the physical stuff?
  • If not, how do you leverage that core?
  • Key question- how to support the scientists that are there?
  • What we have is the physical space, whether they are dying or not is irrelevant- is it?
  • Education needs to take a higher status in applying for grants?
  • Shared vision. Great at strategic planning for organisation, not communities. What kind of community do we want to create outside out walls? That should drive rather than biodiversity learning, science careers, conservation goals that are organisation driven.
  • Question: should we be making such a distinction between outside and inside? We are visitors too...
  • In middle of strategic planning, internally something that is a driver is 'what is that single vision that's going to unite us?' What does everybody rally around?Rather than education will do x, science will do y
  • What are the strong points of assets to build from?
  • Getting that sense of academia across the institution. Education is aware of science research, but is science aware of education research?
  • Zoos and museums- where science meets the general public. Science vs public definition, or spectrum?
  • Are nh museums science museums? They have stuff, plus people who know about that stuff. Reference Kirk- starting to pick scientists who can talk to the public.
  • Is the idea to make it more academic?
  • Science meets the public and the public meets science, but on their terms. It is voluntary. How can we make audiences want to visit?
  • Virtual isn't a replacement or replication of the real.
  • How are we referencing virtual in the conversation?
  • 75% of people with smartphone. Why do they visit if they have all the info in their hands?
  • People used to carry stones around as mobiles, ipads are tools. How can we use tools to interpret the physical space and collections?

  • Zoos moving away from animals, nh museums moving towards live animals?
  • Some nh collections have got rid of scientists. Bishop Museum?
  • Zoos- shift is towards managers and animal care specialists. Expertise is there but not the same.
  • Not driven by taxonomy and systematics
  • Education being cut?
  • The amount of funding that is available to do education is huge right now. Science is less. Scientists want to right an ISE grant to fund their research. Lets do education to fund them all.
  • UK context- public engagement necessary in grants. NH museum in London supporting scientists on fieldwork.
  • Zoo- funding crisis. Grants appear once they’ve been applied for, we need to be involved in pipeline of grants.
  • Ways of working- open system, scientists, education communities, overlap, institutions, values
  • Academic- what's really important about natural history museums, typically we think about the science but we need to look at the education research. Researchers will come and do science days.
  • Zoos- have to talk about science in unpleasant as well as pleasant situations.
  • Conveying purpose of what science is without scientists for some institutions.
  • Academic doesn't scare small organisations.
  • Problem is getting scientists on board.
  • Huge gap between education and science.
  • We got away from our stuff, it didn’t draw people. We have started to put it back in because we lost out way in terms of science centre whizz bang experiment approach, not our unique assets.
  • Smaller communities take a lot of pride that there is an academic collection with that range within their community.
  • People are using websites differently. They want to publish. Artefacts or learning experience wherever it happens, virtual is not instead of real.
  • It is about the collections , living or dead. Can't lose the physical.

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.

Methods and existing research

Community consultation
  • Denver- evaluation- audience and visitor evaluation. Went to free community events, cultural events, farmers markets, different neighbourhoods to reach demographics that dont come to institution. 1200 people.Ethnographic- can we talk to people in community and start to learn something?How they speak about science and nature in their lives.
  • Denver: Digital camera study- curatorial based- what our visitors like the best? Dinosaurs and mummies? Where are visitors going and what are they attending to? Option: Tracking study- follow them around for 6 hours and record what they look at? Didn't appeal.Gave visitors cameras and they recorded what they did, particularly if they are transitioning from one space to another. Gaining tracking time, how they see things, Their eyes.Want to pair that with community studies- get people who have never come to museum to document their experience.
Qualitative methods example
  • Qualitative methods. Evaluation assistants. Closed starting questions-have they visited? Where else do they visit? Open Tell me about nature in your life, what does that look like? Then tell me about science (but not asking same people) Challenge: (Permissions in public space issue). Randomisation protocol- representative group. As soon as word started spreading, people were lining up to speak.No booth, nothing formal.We made sure we weren't walking around with clipboards, much more conversational.Small notepads.Seemed to work really well.Six hundred, one refusal. More amenable. 40% refusal in museum.Surprising given non visitors.
Seasonality in responses
  • 'It depends on where you ask them, what they remember' e.g. Colorado winter vs summer evaluation, the great outdoors.
Research across settings
  • Research about school groups in zoos, natural history settings and environmental organisations. Teaching about habitats and adaptations, what do children learn that is different?
Teacher audience research
  • Example- better understand teacher audience Attitudes, ideas about preparation
    They felt very capable of teaching the science in their classroom, 70% very little science teaching in undergraduate, a mismatch.Compare to families?
Impact of meeting a scientist for the public
  • Amy Seakins, Kings College London- what is the impact of meeting a scientist on the public? onsite, NHM London/Juston Dillon. Evaluation of online audiences at NHM
  • Mary Ann Steiner- UPCLOSE- dissertation on roboticists who work with community farming. Forthcoming topic: evaluation of impact of meeting the public on scientists.
Impact of meeting the public for scientists
  • Science Cafes - A month long experiment with a local scientist.
    Example: mood experiment. 'Science as a way of knowing instead of a citizen science experiment'. Generated new knowledge and a way she could test a new hypothesis for her work.
  • Forthcoming research topic at NHM
Early childhood research
  • parent or a grandparent. Nanny. Both the children and the adults learning together. Explicit that program is for children and adults too. Research of a partnership between a childrens museum and Headstart.

Using social media data for research

  • Look at tweets, breaking down a lot of demographic barriers. Collected 9000 tweets using tweet deck.Skewed audience, socioeconomically.More people tweet about negative than positive.People take for granted they are going to see something good, so they only tweet about something negative.We also looked at tweets for other organisations. Twitter's search engine. Natural History as an example, then quantify where they come from and why.

    You have to have someone you can task with them.Inane.Watching.The animals are doing this.Negative.Neutral.Bibliometric.Culture of science talk in that community.Easy to get this information.Question: what is my sample base?

    People are about ten times more likely to say something negative.
    Many sources of information to inform research question .

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.


  • Inclusion – rural/urban, cultural. Demographic shift. whatever we develop needs to be applicable to that changing audience.
  • Advocacy. E.g. AMNH = not an advocacy organisation. However, do exhibitions about water, climate change, areas that are advocacy focus themes. What is the outcome?
  • Anecdotally we got evaluation evidence that families appreciated the experience.
  • Issue- budget, time and money capacity for research
  • Museum driving trends rather than reacting to them. Exhibitions as messages, programs as messages.
  • Position museum as a place where people go to for events, for identification, regular resource, like a library model
  • Innovation and reaching new audiences. Holding the old audience and reaching the new audience, stewardship and recruitment. Give new messages
  • Better understanding of our communities motivations to come to the museum
  • Would be great to have support in terms of where this sort of research fits, how best to go about it and contribute to the field.
  • Statistical significance in joining - everybody asking the same questions of their audience.
    Every museum has the same set of research questions.That's what epidemiologists do.
  • Quick recording on a form, goes into a common database.
  • Gathering the mood of the natural history network.You could use provocative questions even, as long as everyone agreed in a kiosk in their lobby.
  • In terms of a research agenda, agreeing on questions and asking in different organisations to get regional and local comparisons.

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.

Research questions

  • What is it that traditionally marginalized audiences get from a visit?
  • How does the concept of nature very in different audiences?
  • Practice-> How can museum support and extend this?

Visitors across settings

  • Do visitors to natural history settings behave the same across settings?
  • Is the same person different in these two places?
  • If it is the same person acting differently, why?
  • Does charging relate to behaviour?
Context: Same people coming to museums and zoos. Same person coming to zoo acts very differently in museum. They're animals in zoos! Ten touch screens in reptiles- touch screens were broken over weekend. At a zoo, a different frame of reference to museum. Good manners at museum swapped to zoo? Take the benefits of behaviors at both institutions.Trying to evoke a respect in visitors.People go to a museum different to a zoo, wanting to learn more.

Zoo- more recreational? Indoor vs outdoor behaviour. Schools, being respectful to both entities.Explicit expectations about behaviour?
  • Would linking zoos and natural history museums be beneficial? Research across three settings beneficial.

Cumulative effects

  • What happens in they see one museum a year? Cumulative effect, what happens if they see two museums and a zoo?

  • Who is coming, what are they getting, what are they expecting to get?
Program factors in different contexts
  • (same setting, different place) Why do some programmes work in some contexts and not others? e.g. Science bars in Chicago, Amazonia researchers in action
  • (same organisation, different place) How is an organisation perceived differently using outreach rather than on site?
  • Why certain spaces or ways of facilitating in certain spaces are particularly rich?

Developing skills
  • What can natural history museums to help parents become better facilitators of learning?
  • What can natural history museums to help staff become better facilitators of learning?

Online engagement
  • What happens if you play devils advocate online?

Visitor identity
  • What are family feelings about who you are, what you need to know, and what you should know.
    Suggestion about how you do your work differently?
  • Why do visitors want to associate with nh museum brands?
Visitor Motivation
  • Why do 2-4000 people come along to evening events? Make yourself available to be known, to be trusted, to be liked.

Changing demographics
  • What were the audiences like one hundred years ago compared to now?
Science/visitor dialogue by sector
  • Do teachers like talking to scientists because it clarifies things? Because it gives a public face?

Position as a source of information about the natural world
  • To what extent is a natural history museum cited as a source in conversations that are going on?

Session 2 critical questions

  • Drivers for research questions: How could that practice change the field? How can we connect this to innovation?
  • Audience consultation: e.g. if a museum has teachers as an audience, how should their programming take teacher views into account?
  • Should natural history museums start to have an agenda that pulls the audience in, or that reaches out? What should be prioritised? There is limited capacity.
  • Should we be advocates?
  • How we could think about our place in the community, holistic, acting on a number of platforms?
  • Outcomes: What do we want for them to learn?
We are trying to get them to practice and value science. e.g. mood- breaking down something that is a nebulous concept into scientific components. Rationality, co-operation, sharing.

Outcomes pf programmes defined with researchers, but science as a way of knowing is key.
  • Museums are not set up to offer ephemeral experiences. Should we be designing experiences that are more like ephemeral events? Can we get funding to put into place shorter life cycle events?
Science Uncovered- EU grant- researchers night- NHM London- an example of one off annual programming that is like training and a race- improve performance in science communication building up to the event, gets better every year. Science communciation superstars. Scientists who can speak to others. Kirk- all about the science communication e.g. flashmob examples, different models, scientists on the tube.Training for scientists improves year on year, developing subtlety in approach, not patronising, suitably sceptical so as not to increase the gap between science and learning.
  • Short term responsiveness: Why is ephemeral so important? Attention span. The ability to say it is responsive e.g.Thursday night nightlife
  • The importance of authoritative, authentic expertise? Is there a way that, rather than follow the ephemeral trends and be populist, can feed the ephemeral conversations?
  • Control and ownership- Can we allow it to be appropriated by individuals e.g. online? Critical aspect of natural history museums, process of natural science, need to be grounded rather than flying in the wind.
    Voice that is missing in the viral trends. They don't have time to research before tweeting about these trends.Trust people who have had time to research instead of hysteria.
  • Personalisation of science, personality and character
  • Humanisation- how do we make science more accessible at a personal level?
  • Science communication by scientists: I met this person and you can feel their passion, their interest. Not just what makes a good communicator.
  • Taking some of these models, like the coffee house model, what are the things that denote success or failure? What is it about that programme and why?
  • Reactive or proactive? Museums driving practice e.g. AMNH: New York state- a call for new organisations to do teacher CPD. Problem based approach. If there is a shortage of earth science teachers, what different can a Natural History Museum make? AMNH earth science teaching programme. Approved programme. Innovation, we have had to grow number of PhD level teachers. Pushes questions of faculty. Stretching in the way we define things and what we think, science/learning boundary
  • Is there a certain segment of the audience we are never going to capture no matter what we do? Is it a social issue?
  • Is there a role of the museum in helping parents facilitate learning- teach them you don't have to know all the answers. There is a role in acilitating science communication, learning scientific skills for staff.Historical link- museusm as a place to improve adult literacy. In facilitating sci comm as well as literacy and numeracy.
Science is part of their family, not a family who has science conversation.
It's not something we are afraid of. Gardening, food, etc not related to science
  • Are there underlying things that parents need to know that museums can play a part in? science literacy
When their child says that's really gross, then having more questions to draw out the conversation, more dialogue, rather than lack of conversation.
Help them to know there is something to develop the experience.
  • Facilitation questions- how much are you concerned about down the road impact?
    Long term impacts?What is impact over time?
  • How much impact can we expect from seeing a person once or twice?How could we start to put some numbers on that?

  • Is there another way to get data, e.g. google searches by reason.
    Way to paint a picture.
  • How does that compare to other sources?
  • What are other organisations doing differently?
  • Need to share evaluation reports more, communication and publication of results- how?

Based on the research, what did you, or can you do differently?

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.

Place based learning
  • Can sensory connectedness lead to caring about the world, which leads to caring about issues in the natural world
  • To get people engaged and to make a change, someone has to care about the world around them and we have to make that happen.
  • How can collections based places be working with gardens, sensory place based experience.

  • museum is focussing on being a touchable museum, replicas, 70%
  • Internal agreement- science views of ‘touchable museum?’
  • Smell of environment, sounds such as bird calls

The importance of local place
  • Using IT to link organisations and help visitors to understand what's special about their local environment.
  • Learning theory- revising what you have learnt when you see something in local environment
  • Role of larger organisations- should they still focus on local and community aspects, or in supporting smaller organisations?

Networking within locality
  • Short term nature of visits.
  • Not just seeing a visit as an hour and a half with one place, linking that to what happens in another place.
  • Cumulative effect of contact time.

Networking outside locality
  • Using it to link people with other habitats, to appreciate the uniqueness of own surroundings, habitats, species, ecosystems
  • Kids don't recognise the beauty of their own surroundings.
  • My predator is this, your pollinator is this, general scientific principles but with local aspects.

Researchable question
  • What if we thought of these isolated moments and instead saw them as interconnected moments.
  • What would learning look like?
  • What kinds of facilitation would be needed?

Cumulative impact
  • Look long term from visitor point of view
  • What is the impact of organisations about nature that people go to across x timescale
  • Not just what does my organisation do but what do others do? How are they complementary?
  • Libraries, TV programmes too- how did you know that?
  • Collaboration between organisations- looking at the impact on a group over time.

Caveat: They need to be potentially designable, how is someone who has a personable, touchable philosophy going to relate to a sign based, authoritative approach?

Communicating the process of natural history across settings
  • What works best to communicate the process of science using natural history?
  • How does it scale in different organisations.

Evidence based programming
  • Exhibit developers spend money and make decisions about the media, the visual graphics, the diorama.
  • Decisions are based on budget and hypotheses, but we need more of a research base.
  • Example hypothesis (AMNH): media that is in the voice of a scientist, that uses the tools and the questions and is first person, is more effective.
  • How effective is programming with an emphasis on the process of science, mediated through the voice of a scientist?(define effective)
  • Conversation- scientific researchers feel that the videos that we produce on the floor are a waste of time.They feel that going on fieldwork is the only way to inspire people.
Gather evaluation and compare insights across organisations

  • Design principles- research based. Answerable to the audience.
  • How to implement those strategies in a number of settings.
  • Matching format to audience within a gallery. Spectrum of audiences- need to know which types of format are going to suit which people.
“Evidence based design principles, that's what we lack”.

The difference between research and evaluation:
  • Distinction- To prove and to improve?
  • Is it possible to evaluate that exhibit- e.g. hypothesis 'does this exhibit work?'
  • However, we need a research base that asks why it might be there in the first place, and what future directions should be.
  • Anecdotal evidence- Suspicions about why something is working- how to make that into a researchable question

Online programming
  • Transient experiences that are infrequent. Want to keep the relationships going.
  • Dont want to be clicking at the museum. Want to keep those clicks at home.
  • Blogs can be about relationship building.
  • I go to a blog because I want to have some ownership over the experience.
  • E.g. animal keepers blogging, increased status. E.g. If you want a page at a museum, you have to have a relationship. It has to have a time stamp that continues, not just a destination.
  • Implication- all content dynamic?
  • As we increase the social media avenues, do we decrease the authority of the museum?
  • That's the wrong thinking about social media. It's not a new language, it another vehicle, a place to interact and share ideas. Good relationship building. If you are good offline, you can be good online.

Do we have a role that we didn't used to?
  • We don't have the facts. We have a public that has a difficulty with discernment.
  • Perhaps we have a role in the public being discerning consumers of information.
  • There's so much information. Child who said that climate change was a hoax. Her mum looked it up online.
  • Process of science, how we know what we know in social media.

Research question: what role can natural history museums play in enhancing people's ability to discern information?

  • In any kind of consumption about scientists at work, how much topic about how we know what we know.
  • What markers are people using to decide what is trusted information?

Credible sources- minds mediated by internet and in person.


  • Example- Kirk as an authentic museum curator.

One truth or plurality of viewpoints?
  • Authentic and authoritative together- where's the truth.
  • Social media and authoritative voice?
  • Multiple perspectives, post modernism. Use of social media to gather stories and viewpoints.
  • Cultural diversity.
  • “What we have to recognise is that our audience has misconceptions that we have to confront”.
  • Instead of just sharing the story, we have to share the thought process.
  • Im not going to say anything that makes a child thing that her mum's an idiot.
  • The relationship- we also have misconceptions.
  • Learning cycle.
  • Seem as unapproachable.
  • Interactive, there aren’t these absolutes, not right and wrong .
  • Social media as a way to bring people in, could people write a twitter feed and a hashtag to make a label on an i pad?
  • How much would organisations want to be in charge and control of it?
  • Who would moderate it?

Why us? Why not national geographic?
  • What is our unique role- keep coming back to the stuff. We have the stuff, how do we use that?
  • Our unique asset. If we take away our collections then we are no different to anyone else.
  • Starting with the stuff and using social media.
  • We can see stuff and do stuff with it. If stuff includes the research activities.

Intrinsic interest of the real?
  • In museums the stuff isnt that interesting, but it attracts people who are interested in it.
  • How many drawers of seashells are there here?
  • You dont show them all the stuff.
  • The stuff attracts amazing scientists feed forward reaction, scientists attract stuff
  • Concrete information that has information behind it.

Virtual vs real; -> virtual complementing real
  • Example- Chilean miners, son transfixed by it. The object drives it.
  • What would make something authentic if you couldn’t be in the room with it?
  • Media- just a format for a narrative.

  • What makes that object so fascinating?
  • If it wasn't for that amazing story, that object wouldn't be so interesting.
  • Do they care about the object?
  • Is it their narrative?
  • Is it the objects narrative?

Authenticity- living animals.
  • Live animals are interesting.
  • Enclosures: live animals, live animals that go into a classroom.
  • What is the impact of in an enclosure vs out of an enclosure.
  • If the animal is moving, then they just focus on that.
  • Living as opposed to moving The zoo community has struggles with video.
  • A well produced video of a giraffe, is that a more memorable experience than the sensory experience of being there?
  • The butterfly museum. Videos of monarch butterflies. How can we give the wow moment with just the video, just the blog, without a facilitator.
  • Hollywood example- production techniques to make it memorable.
  • Video not so good in NHM or zoo because you can't spend that much on it.
  • What invokes the authentic experience or emotional response?

Authenticity- place
  • Place is interesting, intrinsic or mediated?

All of these features of authentic which might connect the sector. It has to be sensory.

Combining authenticity
  • Other places have scientists, we have objects AND scientists which they don't.
  • Whether the object is a place, objects, animals.
  • Online and labs dont have a place, and they need a public face.
  • Additive experience.
  • Not either or, it works altogether.
  • How do we do that well?
  • We could become experts in the science of what we do in terms of interpreting our objects.

Psychology of attending to informal science messages

Science relationships.
  • Media as a calling card.
  • Blogging.
  • Compelling story.

Researchable question: In terms of the way that blogs and social media work, once that attention has been established, it can be repetitive. Do (can) we see the same effect on site? (Habitual visits, checking in)

  • Attentional spotlight attracted to salient objects.
  • Large, surprising, same way as babies dishabituate.
  • Or, blogs or pre visit work (Kisiel) can focus attentional spotlight.
  • Additive effects of salience

Emotional connection to nature, science, scientists.
  • Science Heroes.
  • General terms. Actors.
  • Media stage- Brian Cox in the UK.
  • Twenty years ago at the Bronx zoo. Conservation heroes of the world, all white men.
  • Shy away from highlighting scientists unless they are enthusiastic.
  • Issue- white males predominant e.g. tumblr blog, this is what a scientist looks like.
  • If you want to be authentic, and whats happening in science.
  • Those people are white and typically male. Are they still?

Aim of programming
  • Is there a research that you need to prove that inspiring people to be scientists is the goal?
  • Or have you already agreed on that and you just want to agree the best way to do it?

Definition of science- science is a process.
  • If you want to make a difference, if you want to save the world it is the skills.
  • Do you connect with the process, or do you connect with the person who uses the process.
  • Or do you become the person who does it yourself?
  • Do you have to connect with it?
  • You can watch a great narrative and take a lot away.
“At the end, we want people doing science, right?”
  • Critical thinking, starting to think as a person who values science or evidence, because we can support that way of thinking.
  • Rational vs irrational thinking.

Relationships to place, earth, family.
A person being able to make informed decisions about relationships.
“And evidence, right?”

  • We want individuals to be able to think about that evidence.

  • Connection to something throughout, families, scientists.
  • Common thread in settings.

Behaviour change
  • Museums spend a lot of money providing people with information, but that doesn't change behaviour.
  • Social media a tool for inciting collective action, like ecological game theory. (If they are doing it, I will also benefit).
  • Influence
  • Wanting to change behaviours as an outcome of education?
  • You can be an insitution that is about providing strong quality information.
  • If you dont provide information, who will. That is only one part of it.
  • How far does your responsibility extend?
  • You can partner with an environmental group.
Marketing and behaviour change
  • We want to change attitudes, we want them to understand and buy into it. We are competing with people with huge budgets.
  • Marketing- if we want to change behaviour, we could sell the collections and buy some billboards.
  • Oklahoma, climate change, global warming term not used any more, easy for people to be cynical.
  • Trying to use information to change people's attitudes.

Situating own views, placing in context, increasing self awareness
  • Real time showing where your opinion is at next to your community.
  • Does public opinion change about climate change when you see where your opinion relates to other peoples.
  • It's about putting people into context by creating cognitive dissonance, there is a mismatch, are you self aware about it?

Collaboration around professional development
  • A lot of us are doing some things really well. Exchange programmes, e.g. swapping evaluators, scientists, empower us to think differently about our work.
  • It doesnt have to be very expensive.
  • How do we provide professional development for our staff?
  • NHM Brad Irwin CPD for science educators.
  • Go to meetings, those guys are doing something really good. e.g. What Kathleen's doing works well.
  • Why aren't we saying 'this works, let's do it?'
  • Synergy of approach e.g. DNA workshop. We don't share well, we don't communicate well.
  • Real World Science at NHM.
  • Example- zoos. Breeding populations that are moved around the country.
  • National collection of animals. People can't agree on what the practices are for animal care each place. At each place people do different interpretation.

These are field wide practices that we need.



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