Facilitator: Kathy McLean

Recorder: Kaleen Povis

Charge: Raise the questions and concerns to be addressed which will help us all move forward with a common research agenda.

Kathleen McLean Facilitator, Independent Exhibitions
Steve Hinkley Museum of Nature and Science
Teresa Randall Oklahoma City Zoon
Puja Dasari California Academy of Sciences
Kara Fedje Putnam Museum of History and Natural Science
Maija Sedzielarz Science Museum of Minnesota
Pino Monaco Smithsonian Institution
Annie Holdren Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History
Maritza Macdonald American Museum of Natural History
Nan Renner San Diego Museum of Natural History
Randy Irmis Natural History Museum of Utah
Robert Bixler Clemson University
Steve Thompson Lincoln Park Zoo
Richard Efthim National Museum of Natural History


The 21st Century has already brought with it a broad, deep array of audience and societal contextual factors that change the way people see, use, and experience natural history museums.

This conference theme explores the intersection of historical and current natural history museum assets and six contextual factors that seem to be here to stay for our audiences after the first decade of the 21st Century.

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 and Societal Context

Audience research at the National Museum of Natural History has revealed six high-level expectations for museum-based experiences in the 21st Century. Some of these are familiar to us, but many challenge the traditional approaches to outreach, education, and public engagement at natural history museums. The descriptions below provide some conclusions from talking with a sample of visitors at the National Museum of Natural History. They are meant as a starting place for conversation and exploration.

  • Relevant. First and foremost, the experiences that stand out in visitors’ minds are those that enable them to relate their experience in the museum to their lives outside the museum. Visitors bring their personal curiosities into the museum, and these relate to their professional, home, or family lives. They are drawn to experiences that promise some connection to those interests. Topics of current popular interest and that are related to high-priority national topics also tap into visitors’ need to connect museum content to their daily lives.
  • Customized. Visitors place value on museum experiences that allow them to tailor experiences to suit their personalities, interests, or moods. Experiences that engage visitors in a dialogue and allow them to ask their own questions can add to the feeling of customizability. The opportunities for individualized attention and experience could potentially be enhanced by technological innovations and by access to the breadth of resources natural history museums have to offer.
  • Immersive. Among the most compelling informal learning experiences that visitors have are those that fully immerse them in the content by seeming to take them out of the museum setting (often metaphorically or virtually) and transporting them to another time or place. Immersion also includes the feeling of authenticity that visitors expect: Access to the "real thing" without many barriers to exploration.
  • Dynamic. 21st Century visitors are likely to bring with them an expectation of action, movement, and change. The world of media and the exploding number of opportunities for education and leisure have enhanced our audiences' expectations for seeing and experiencing processes that change over the course of one visit or exposure, or across many. Visitors expect to see and be a part of the developmental process, and not just see a static finished product.
  • Unique. Media and technologically‐mediated experiences have raised the bar for what constitutes a truly one‐of‐a‐kind experience. Technology is seen as competing with museums in providing informal learning experiences, despite the fact that museums have been actively incorporating technologies in their exhibits and online. Our audiences hope to do or see something extraordinary with us — something decidedly different from what they see and do every day.
  • Surprising. Natural history museums can introduce people to information and ideas they haven’t come across before or to experiences they didn’t expect to have and inspire them to explore new ideas they hadn't considered before. The “ah‐ha” moments that occur when a new idea is encountered can give a satisfying sense of accomplishment, reminding them of their capacity for understanding and synthesizing information across different domains

Day One Overview:

Summary of Morning

  • Good things happen in museums, passionate moments of learning, but how do we go from these moments being serendipitous occurrences to strategically planned offerings in order to increase their frequency.

  • The human creative capital of a museum is valuable. How might a museum change if the staff sees itself as the "live animals" as part of exhibits?
  • If trust is built on relationships, how can museums foster relationships with visitors/the community in order to build trust and open dialogue?

  • If learning is the audience's need how does a museum position itself as an environment for the six strands of learning?
  • We should recognize that there is not just one learning outcome but multiple outcomes that are of worth. There is value in family learning (parents learning about their children, seeing their excitement, and sharing their interests) as there is in content learning.

  • What experience do we expect people to have in our museums and how do visitors naturally experience it? How can we use that behavior as an access point into the museum and our mission?
  • How do you interact with something you can't touch or feel, something behind glass? Museums must work to add the context, connections, emotions, and relevance in order overcome this barrier

  • The museum is not a closed system. We cannot just look inward. We need to think about what our visitors bring the the museum and what local organizations offer and continue to foster partnerships.
  • Museums are missing an opportunity when they do not invite visitors to experience nature outside the walls of the museum. Why don't more museums offer maps of local hikes, connect visitors with interest groups, provide information on other local offerings that could connect people to natural history?
  • How can we tie individual experiences together over time and give people a thread to follow?

Afternoon Summary

  • What do we as a museum, as a museum field, as the field of natural history museums want to convey?
  • How can we shift what people are talking about and what do we want them to talk about?

  • What is the role of the museum?
  • Shift away from transition model of learning
  • Move to public forum
  • Take the role of a community facilitator
  • Not truth factories but live the scientific process
  • Release of control to visitors and struggling with comfort levels

  • Are we in the business of advocacy? Where do advocacy and education overlap and differ?
  • Are all natural history museums comfortable with being advocates?
  • Do we as a network agree on a common advocacy agenda?
  • How frequetnly do visitors need to engage in sticky experiences in order to change behavior?

  • Natural History Museums are in the business of controversy!
  • What topics are too controversial for Natural History Museums to address?
  • Controversy is an opportunity for rich programming.

  • What do we mean by that and does the museum and do visitors use the word the same way?
  • First convey "Why this is important?" then answer "What does it mean to me?" for visitors.

Linking Assets and Context/Expectations

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 contextual factors, or expectations. The working group will consider how the different assets and factors 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.

Remember the human creative capital- where is this reflected in the chart?
This is also not a closed system. Careful not to just look inward, but remember visitor prior experience
Let's consider our audience an asset

Collections, Data, Evidence
Possible area of overlap between and among assets and opportunities

Scientific Community
Historical Perspective
Partnerships and Programs as way to address societal needs - method to address problem rather than asset
Collections do make museums unique - not to be overlooked
What is the problem we are solving for?
Learning happens through social interaction, and visitors site social reasons for coming to museums.
Museums create a context for social learning.
How might the chart be filled in if we do so through a social lens.
Contextual model of learning also includes physical and personal.
Individual institutions may also have different needs/abilities and would therefore look at this chart differently.... so make sure flexibility is part of research agenda.
Trust is based on relationships - Example: People to come to the museum together may agree with one another and not with scientist or label because trust comes from relationship not just the institution.
Don't forget the individual who goes to a museum alone to figure out science for self
Free-choice Learning = Leisure Learning
There is a self-selection process at play - who are museum visitors

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 audience and societal contextual factors 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?

How do we bring together our assets and our visitors?
Create an emotional attachement for the visitors to the museum Ex. Parent loves child's reaction in museum
Emotional attachments will bring repeat visitors.
Prompt feeling of success
Use our tangible assets, but create those intangible opportunities as well Ex. A parent so pleased with a child's sense of wonder sparked at the zoo and shared that information on Facebook. Facebook as feedback loop to staff. - spreads that idea (the importance of family learning) to other Facebook users then as well.
Sense of wonder can be unique it doesn't have to be transformational.
Parents learning about their children and valuing their children's learning is powerful and should be recognized as important. - How do we then leverage our assets to foster this/support this type of social learning.
Serendipitous vs. Strategic use of assets - how to go from by chance to planned for and supported
Are museums fulfilling the learning needs/goals/desires of visitors?
Story: Zoo Code Red = dangerous animal loose. Use of social media (Tweets in this case) to share that event. Careful what sources are used and what is said.
People at Natural History Museums do not seem to capture their experiences nearly as much on YouTube and other social media outlets as visitors to Zoos.
Attraction of live animals is high - butterflies, lizards, snakes, etc.
Can staff/scientists be the "live animals" that attract the visitors.
Example: Visitors spending a lot of time, more than any other exhibit, looking at fish bowl of scientists
Example: Comparing art museum and zoo time spent and impact on student group - key was the interpreter - What mattered was not the content/type of museum but the facilitation (in this case parent led)
How do you interact with something you can't touch or can't feel?
Indicate access to staff with buttons indicating languages spoken
Live interaction of some kind (visitor to visitor, facilitation, animals, etc.) -that is dynamic
Pacific Grove Museum of NH example of danger of closing because of lack of visitor access to staff - Rejuvenated by bringing in people.
Using technology (video conferences) to link visitors to museum assets (staff and collections) here at Smithsonian.
If learning is the audience's need how does a museum position itself as an environment for the six strands of learning?
Visitors did not separate fun from education in audience survey
"The Experience Economy" book reference. People come to museums for the experience.... perhaps not specifically to learn, but because it is a potential outcome (there is "a risk" of learning)
Story of leaving Smithsonian and having nobody there to remind visitors to continue their experience online, or at a local institution, or extend experience in any number of other ways outside the walls of the museum. This facilitation in continued connection is a huge missed opportunity.
How to get strangers to talk to each other is important - nod to Nina Simon's "Participatory Museums"
Even high school boys articulate there is something unique and different about museums that offers a separate experience than school or home
What experience do we expect people to have in our museums and how do visitors naturally experience it?Example: If visitors are using or want to use their phones or cameras in the museums how can we use that behavior as an access point into the museum and our mission
Barrier of viewing learning as a single outcome rather than multiple outcomes.

Foundational Research and Best Practices

This section will grow during and after the conference. The tagging exercise at www.informalscience.org 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 audience and societal context.

Reflections After Lunch:
Collective remembering - remembering where we are and what we know and thinking about what will move us forward
Challenging transmission of knowledge model - has been going on for a while, but now, perhaps, agreeing upon that as a museum-wide veiwpoint
Networks of natural history museum, but also bigger context of world/citizen connections.
Assets as things we have some ability to control - communication pathways to reach an audience

Sticking power comes from experiences being "different" or "atypical" (not part of the everyday)
Questions that come of this: 1) How frequently do visitors need to engage in those sticky experiences in order to change their behaviors? 2) How important is is that the museum set the agenda vs. How much do we need to respond to visitor input? Here is where the idea of relevance comes in.

Relevance: Depends upon perspective
Museum's notion may be very different from visitor(s) ideas on what is relevant
Museum may be looking at global issues
Visitors- "What does this mean to me?"
How can we know and how can we impact or address what is relevant to the visitor?

Ask Why First: "Why is this important?"
Why this is important can be a common why to help frame everyone's next step regardless of the direction they go next (visualize upside-down triangle with why at top and trickle down)

Can we make an individual's relevance match our (museum) relevance?

People start with a personal experience and build from that... it is not common to have a star-struck moment of realization of place on earth.

We (museums) have a notion of ourselves as already there (using our assets to good end), but do we all agree?
What have museums done, what makes you feel/know you have attained that match of assets and goals? How did you attain that?

Football Game Analogy: Many people go, but not all are actually watching the game. The fans in each seating level, the band, the tailgaters, the cheerleaders, all there for many different reasons - they are getting many different things out of their experience.

Fact Vomiting - former docent system involved delivery of facts to visitors. Visitors may be "dragged-alongs" or deeply interested along a spectrum. Docent's new goal is not just to tell, but to move visitors along that spectrum. Visitors may not know enough in order to know what to ask.

Informal settings, unlike formal school have ability to meet visitors where they are and move them along.

How can we shift what people are talking about?
350.org to raise awareness of carbon parts per million - idea to bring such resources together with museum to reach more people.
Local food network- can NH museums connect with those organizations and support those movements?
Museums can practice and model the connections.
Example from Burke Natural History Museum and food exhibit linking expertise of museum with the knowledge of local people... to address relevant issue of diabetes. It was the communication with the Elders that directed what to do with the items the museum had. The display could have gone any number of ways, but in this case the audience (an asset) helped direct the use of the items.

I wonder what would happen if we connected with networks (social units) that are already out there rather than just individuals?

Citizen Science at Cornell bird lab - successful because harnessed energy of those already interested and engaged. Work with what already exists in the world. Find synergy and come out of isolation.

Want to know entomology in order to be a better photographer - idea that people have different reasons to learn and goals. These can be seen as another way into NH museums and their mission.

Community Effort Project: Coral Reef Project
4000 hand made (knit) pieces of coral made my 700 people (community collaborative effort)
Collaborative effort utilizing interests (Ex. fiber art) that are already in place.
Another example would be to get in touch with retired teachers when trying to start a docent program or work with ecologists who are cleaning up the river.

Such partnerships also tie to the idea of place-based learning and this collaboration strengthens all of them.
Museum gives you threads you can follow to other organizations and outdoor places.

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.

Encouraging visitors to put post-it notes on exhibits and comment on the exhibit. As far as letting visitors add their own interpretation. What does that mean to the museum? What if the views that are posted are in direct opposition to what your museum believes/wants to convey? Example: A post-it note written by a visitor that says evolution is not true

This post-it will give you instant feedback on the type of people coming through your doors. Helps inform you as to who is coming and what might need to be addressed through programs etc.

Other museum visitors will likely see those notes as a Public Forum and will not confuse the "museum voice" with "visitor opinions"

Inquiry approach vs. advocacy approach allowed an individual to through articulation of belief to begin to question own viewpoints and ask questions. Greater receptivity and change in way of seeing a natural history museum. [Personal Example of Scientific viewpoint vs. fundamentalist Christian viewpoint on creation]

Provide more options for people to discuss.

Feedback Response Boards:
I went to the MOMA and.....
"I saw two garbage cans, many knees, and no dinosaurs. Do you call yourself a museum?"

Nature-Based Pre-School at Zoo. A lot of funding and attention in that area. Filling a community need, safe place, affordable place, learning taking place. Community has been built based on this handful of kids - staff has become more receptive and accommodating for these students and refer to them as "our students." Stuffed animal, Mr. Peacock, goes home with the students and ties families to outdoors by documenting what activities Mr. Peacock does when at their home. Class-wide journal is kept. Why did they choose the zoo for pre-school? What is it that they value (the zoo, the safety, the cost, etc.) that led that decision?

What is the role of the institution? Authority or facilitator of community, perhaps.
Sectors where visitors have more and less input. In some realms the museum leads/tells, but in others allows visitors to choose/provide own feedback. Museum can set out facts and then let visitors work with those.
Example: Building an energy hall- this being in Texas, it is funded by oil company - but line between facts and propaganda. Let visitors take in information and synthesize/decide for self. Helps visitors see limits to wind, solar, other powers and choose for self a solution. While this exhibit shows need to use mixed energy methods it also ties to another exhibit on how to improve turbines for better wind energy that could lead to reduced dependency on natural gases.

Mediation Object: Mr. Peacock and Energy Interactive both examples of ways to scaffold an open-ended experience

What are the range of possibilities when we let visitors use a mediation object? Are there typical uses or parameters of these object mediated experiences? Are there guiding design elements that can be drawn from such work?

Does allowing visitors to do that (make decisions based on facts within exhibits) make it more relevant to them?

Exhibits with an educational expectation of decision making

How to get visitors to think like you/the museum?

I wonder who did not use the exhibit? Why were they not interested, who did not engage and why?

What happens when visitors realize that their agenda does not align with the museum's agenda?
How do we handle those that do not agree or even want to engage?

How do we expand our audiences? To those that have a broad range of learning abilities.

What can a person with average intelligence actually understand about a particular, perhaps complex topic such as climate change?

In thinking about our huge diverse audience (ages, abilities, backgrounds), this is an opportunity for ISE organizations to be at the helm. We have answers!

There are many ways to engage and learn - group problem solving,
Think beyond the individual.
Give people the challenge and tools to think about complex issues. Believe that our visitors are smart enough to deal with complexity.

Where is our comfort level in allowing visitor feedback/viewpoints on the floor?

Natural History Museums are institutions dedicated to controversial issues!
What methods of communication can we employ that will be thought provoking rather than end the conversation with "the answer"?

Dealing with controversy in museums- we often self sensor out of fear without even giving our visitors the opportunity to disagree. We temper our statements and exhibits and in effect may become much more conservative than our stakeholders (visitors, funders, board, policy makers, etc.).

If we don't do it who is going to? That is what we need to think about when going forward with political or potentially controversial issues. Example: Making of a Darwin exhibit. Note that people used the exhibit in many, many ways like a teen relating to being set away on a ship for 5 years, or a couple thinking about the differing religious views of Darwin and his wife.

Controversy is an opportunity for rich public programming.

Are we just speaking to the converted?

What topics are too controversial for NH Museums to cover?
Test it with human population growth.
There have been some on homosexuality.
Turning museum into forum and can design of the exhibit help shift visitors from seeing museum as an advocate of any one view as a forum for rich discussion.

Term: Community Facilitator
What would the museum as a community facilitator look like?

How can we think about achieving out goals through indirect means/creative ways? How might we become flexible and innovative enough

Zoozeum:Tell history of the state through the museum with stories and pictures and objects. Ex. Telling the story of how a building used to be a bathhouse and is now part of the zoo. Talking about our past and building sense of community (which also builds donor base).

Define Community:
Anybody who can benefit from the resources (collections or staff) of our institution.
Preschool - audience need addressed by museum and mutually benefits each.

21st Century - let's think forward
Online outreach community. Look at what you do well and then expand with those strengths in mind.

Challenge of translating what works for a small group into something that might work for a large group or a distance learning situation - building a program out and online

I wonder what would happen in the museum community if we really saw the human body as a resource and thought more fully about what hands-on and immersive means.

We/Museums share communities of visitors. How can we best utilize that fact?
If visitors visit multiple museums would it be helpful to have a unified front or can it be an asset to have discrepancies among institutions.

Misconception about science that they find "truth," when it should instead be stated as testing hypothesis. Yet, it seems, visitors come to museums to find "truth." Look at scientific process.

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.

Going Forward:
What 21st Century Challenge do you feel your museum already addresses? (share with neighbor)
What 21st Century Challenge do you feel your museum should address?
How could a research agenda inform your practice and help you reach the goal of addressing a 21st Century Challenge?

  • Collections are a unique asset of museums, let us not forget to really use them.
  • What innovative ways are there to use collections that will connect with and engage our audiences?
  • Note the distinction and opportunity in a research collection (verse an education collection).

Making Connections:
  • Is story-telling and narration dumbing down?
  • The stories are the interesting part of the science that we do and do a better job of educating than naming/labeling/taxonomy facts.
  • Stories are one way to make links between collections and visitors. What other links/methods can be used?

Sometimes the audience is the 10th grade class that needs to pass the science exam. There is the audience that is turned on by discovery and will come out to hear about the museum's new work. Therefore we need to have various portals into the museum and ways to access the museum's assets. What about those visitors that are not already engaged or comfortable in museums: are we only addressing the 'low-haning fruit.'

Big Blockbuster exhibits (science of Harley motorcycles, etc.) are one way new audiences have been addressed.

How do we help people know how to 'use museums' not just get them here? How do we pull them in, not just hook them once?

How do we provide opportunities for long lasting connections not just surface level interests?

Loss of names, kids today know 1000 logos but not the names of trees/animals.

What needs to happen with people over their lifespan to connect people to nature? What role does a museum play? How can the museum tie people to/offer/lead visitors to long-term life experiences?

Scientist Eyes: Learning how to see with the aid/scaffolding of an expert. Rather than feeling compelled to tell visitors things how about helping them develop skills that they can then use and transfer to other domains of their life. Invites people into a community of practice/science of process skills.

Visitors may wonder, "How do they know that is a fossil bone and not just a rock?" and we can help them learn how to see/discover/observe/synthesize as a scientist.

This learning to see is happening/working with volunteers and docents. Can we harness what we have learned in teaching volunteers/docents and apply that training or concepts to a wider visitor audience? What have we learned about perceptual skills that we can build upon to benefit our visitors?

Have we picked all of the low-hanging fruit? Are we reaching them all?
When we do reach out to new audiences how to we keep them past the pull-in-exhibit? A model for sustaining an audience does not seem to exist.

Access to the real (objects, science, scientists) is what is unique and fosters appreciation by allowing options so that visitors can choose their own pathways.

What would happen if we started to think of ourselves as the visitor in the museum?

Are museums wiling to open themselves up in order to rotate what objects are on display, to work as a network to give visitors across the nation access to the objects and scientists that may be in another part of the country? Doing this not an a polished exhibit but more as a raw and ready model.

Library Partnerships: science on the floor to connect museums to people and community
It's a free venue and could be a public service.
Some museums and libraries already work in partnership.

How do we connect in better ways to solve problems and share ideas? Access to case studies would be really useful. How then, do we share information among the museum community, know what is going on, and not re-invent the wheel? CAISE, InformalScience.org, Research2Practice, ExhibitFiles, conferences, journals, newsletters, blogs are all access points. Still not enough sharing. Personal commitment to engage in the sharing community. Increase culture of contribution not just consumption.

Is repeat visitation a shared goal of all museums... or should it be? Could be a difference between museums and nature centers. Think about usage patterns of our visitors.

Ecosystem Model for Mapping Resources and Future Learning Research:
Visitor viewpoint - individual learning
Visitors as social network - who they came with
Museum change as a single instituation
Network of museums with shared goals
Museums within the broader social context - schools, and other institutions

Enthusiasm of staff and their own learning is important and will encourage visitors to do the same.

Moving into the 21st Century in the digital realm.

How to we create open-source museums? Would a digital platform be the best way to open access. What other tools do we have for engagement?

Underserved communities have not been the topic of our conversation enough. How can we have a broader reach to more diverse audiences?

Can we look to a business model or marketing for clues on how to address more audiences?
We cannot ignore the "Why is this meaningful to me (emotional connection)" question. That is a starting point.

Youth telling stories - inviting teens into museum to tell an on-site story (Example: girl who made video about CalAcad's living roof and what it might mean if everyone had a living roof)

Facebook model that people care about content, but also care about people and therefore will click on links either because they have a content interest or a social interest/curiosity (Example: I want to know what that is vs. I want to know what my friend likes). Is relationship building the key and how can museums capitalize on that?

How does online engagement foster science skills?
Do we understand the affordances of digital media vs. solid stuff? What are the learning outcomes of each form of media?

What are the characteristics of a threshold experience that sparks interest or passion?

People come back (to The Brain exhibit) to keep teaching themselves/develop a competency/ practice. It was the personal, human endeavor that was relevant. It posed a challenge was captivating. Curator's goal: "I want to know if they know themselves better."

Imagination/Curiosity/Creativity may be an under-tapped resource. How might we be inadvertently stifling or undervaluing imagination.

Why is it that 90% of the scientific staff at this conference are in Paleo? Is that a comment on who is used to engaging with the public?

Technology is important, but let us remember what is unique to NH Museums. It is the real stuff (collections/materials/scientists) that make us unique.

Cannot disconnect the people from the stuff because the point is to connect more and more people to "the stuff."

Ask yourself: What connected me to this exhibit? Was it a video you saw, was it an emotional reaction?
Example being the squid exhibit in the host institution

Cabinets of Curiosity ties to the morbid/natural interests of humans

Project at Smithsonian in the new education center- trying to develop the tool (ipad perhaps or app) for allowing visitors to document their visit at the center and later access and share their experience. How does this type of opportunity change the museum experience? What does the cost/benefit analysis look like?
Example: Couple looking at picture on phone rather than real object in front of them.
Example: Visitor's using their phones to look up more information
Example: Complementary use of technology to provide more or different information rather than taking the place of the real object.

How do we best engage audiences with the depth of "real stuff" beyond the less than 1% that is on display? Many visitors are not even familiar with the fact that there is more to see and that there are scientists behind the scenes as well.

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 audience and societal contextual factors. 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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