In 2020, Kera Collective (formerly RK&A) partnered with the Mercer Museum and a team of experts in support of the experimental exhibition project, Plus Ultra. Through Plus Ultra, the museum created three prototype exhibitions that utilized previously underutilized spaces in the museum to enhance the experience of local community members around the museum’s core exhibition. Given that Plus Ultra is an experimental project, our role as the evaluator was to promote institutional learning through the experimentation via three formative evaluations. Each formative evaluation revealed specific successes and shortcomings of the experimental exhibitions.
The first prototype (Prototype A – 2021) introduced a distinct style, color palette, and extensive interpretative text that contrasted the exhibition approach in the core exhibition. Visitors to the exhibition made personal connections to the individual objects, although visitors felt the overall design sparse and in too stark contrast to the core exhibition.
The second prototype (Prototype B – 2022) was exhibited in one new space, enhanced the style of the exhibition, overcame attraction barriers, refined the approach to the interpretative text, and introduced new engagement strategies that encouraged visitor participation. Visitors were more engaged with Prototype B versus A strategies, but the museum’s visitation did not include the desired target audience: local community.
The third prototype (Prototype C – 2023) leaned into the style developed through prototyping, enhanced the engagement strategy, and took a community-centric approach to the curation and interpretation. Visitors to the exhibition were mostly Doylestown residents driven in by the establishment of free community weekends. Visitors made notable personal connections, as evidenced by shared experiences and conversations among visitors.
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