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ISP Project

While at USHMM, I helped my supervisor, Sarah Campbell, by collecting data and entering it using Survey Pro database. This survey was part of her ISP project, which was designed to find why visitors choose to come to USHMM. This examines the visitor experience at USHMM and motivations behind coming here while in D.C. Below I have included Sarah’s project proposal – explaining the purpose and benefits of such research – as well as sample copies of the entrance and exit surveys.

In order to conduct these surveys, we had to view a Powerpoint presentation and take a quiz for certification. I participated in and received certification through this presentation entitled, “Protecting the Rights and Welfare of Research Participants, Training for Research Assistants”.


Sarah’s Proposal

My proposed project is designed to more deeply explore visitor sentiments about their visit to the Museum and contextual understanding of the Holocaust and its impact. As researched by People, Places & Design Research (PPD) in 2004, I propose to use their findings and our current strategic planning goals to create a structure for the museum to collect data regularly from our visitors. These sentiments I would like to explore include visitor motivations, attitudes and expectations. The PPD evaluation of the PE is now five years old. Who are our visitors now? Are there things we can learn about the engaged citizens that walk through our doors every day?  I want to explore and expand upon portions of that evaluation through entrance and exit interviews with museum visitors. Many visitors who come to the museum often say they came because they were told they “had to see it.” I would like to probe into this and other similar comments more deeply. It is important that we find out more of the underlying motivations visitors have for coming to the Museum. I am also interested in finding out what background knowledge visitors have of the Holocaust era when they arrive, and what popular culture references visitors connect with in their visit to the museum. Finally, I would like to explore what visitors are expecting from their visit and to follow up after their visit to determine if and how their visit met those expectations.

My interest for this project comes from my interest in visitor perspectives that has been cultivated while working in visitor services. Understanding our visitors’ motivations and expectations is critical to understanding how effectively we as an institution are communicating our messages. Current literature about museum visitors emphasizes they enter and leave with their own, personal narrative (John Falk, Identity and the Museum Visitor Experience, Left Coast Press, 2009).  By exploring visitor motivations for visiting, we can not only capitalize on this interest through membership and increased relationships with the museum, but also understand gaps in where our messaging is not reaching certain audiences. And by exploring attitudes and expectations while at the museum, we can make sure that the visitor experience is maximized to the fullest extent.

In order to implement this project, I propose asking visitors who come to the museum about their motivations, attitudes and expectations. This would involve interviewing visitors as they enter the museum, and possibly as they exit to see if expectations are being met. If it is not possible to interview visitors after they come to the museum, then perhaps a follow-up online survey would be able to meet this portion of the project. My goal is to set up the structure for either of these to be repeated at biannual and quarterly intervals.

This project would not only help the Museum by addressing the needs of visitors, but would contribute to my own development as a museum employee. My development as an employee would benefit from designing and implementing a research design that I can train others to carry through. This would give me the opportunity to coordinate all aspects of a research and evaluation project, and to train and supervise a team interviewing visitors and entering data. For this project, I would request that my supervisor be Rebekah Sobel, NIHE Program Evaluator.

My proposed ISP has numerous advantages. It is extremely feasible; it can be implemented with a relatively small team of interviewers and requires no extra costs. It pertains directly to the museum’s goals of addressing the needs of audiences, particularly underserved audiences. It also has potential for me to develop skills related to leading a team and managing a project. The project also has great potential gains for the museum, specifically related to how messages are received by visitors.


Entrance Surveys

Exit Surveys