As in-gallery interpretation continues to evolve with the integration of screens (including mobile devices, touch tables, and touch walls), so does museums’ ability to capture digital data on visitors’ experiences through these platforms—and with the ability to capture so much data digitally comes the tendency to do so. Without question, these data sets yield a wealth of new insight into visitors’ museum experiences. But digitally-captured quantitative data only tells half of the story. What about the insights that can only be gained by observing and talking with visitors?
Drawing on a series of formative evaluations conducted by Randi Korn & Associates, Inc. (the FuturEnergy Simulation games [on multi-touch tables] at the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago, IL, the CENTC Multi-touch Table at the Liberty Science Center, Jersey City, NJ, and the Recollections touch-tables at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, New York, NY) this presentation will examine the efficacy and value of using qualitative methods to collect data when evaluating digital in-gallery components and experiences.
I will discuss findings from these studies that were uniquely captured using qualitative methods, the strengths and weaknesses of different methods for collecting qualitative data, and the importance of being rigorous when collecting and analyzing qualitative data. Using these studies as a basis for discussion, I will also consider some key questions related to using qualitative methods to evaluate digital in-gallery components and experiences. For instance, when might qualitative data actually yield the most insight into what your visitors are thinking, doing, and feeling? What is important to think about when considering using qualitative methods to evaluate digital components and interactions? And considering the wealth of data that museums are now able to collect digitally, what is the continued value of using traditional qualitative methods when evaluating digital in-gallery experiences? You will leave this session armed with an understanding of the importance of and systematic approaches for incorporating qualitative methods into evaluations of digital in-gallery components and experiences at your institution.