At RK&A, we promote the lifecycle approach to evaluation; that is, we know that when evaluation procedures are built into an exhibition's lifecycle, the exhibition will achieve its goals and intended outcomes. An evaluation that provides continual feedback from visitors links the audience's needs with exhibition developers' goals. We advocate conducting evaluation at multiple stages during an exhibition's development.
Summative evaluations of two exhibitions for a natural history museum
California Academy of Sciences San Francisco, CA
We conduct front-end evaluation after concept development to inform exhibition teams on how the public thinks about their exhibition ideas. Front-end evaluation helps exhibition teams understand their audiences in the context of the exhibition ideas. During design development, we conduct formative evaluation with prototypes to test interpretive ideas and components for their functionality and ability to communicate content.
Once the exhibition is complete, we conduct remedial evaluation upon request. Remedial evaluation is useful for teams who want to troubleshoot problems before an exhibition's final assessment. Summative evaluation, also conducted after an exhibition is completed, determines an exhibition's overall successes and shortcomings as well as examines behavioral, cognitive, and affective outcomes against the exhibition's goals and objectives.
Exhibition evaluation is both a process and a tool that guides exhibition teams' decisions and actions. While we provide clients with reports that explain our findings and observations, we do not view them as the last step in evaluation: we like to help staff transfer our recommendations from words and ideas into action and change—all in an effort to provide visitors with the best experience possible.
We recently conducted exhibition evaluations at the following museums. For a complete list of RK&A planning, evaluation, and research projects, please see All RK&A Clients.
For more information or to get started on an exhibition evaluation, please see Getting Started.