Visitor Expectations and Satisfaction at Burke Museum Family Day Events

Saturday, January 1, 2011
Resource Type:
Research and Evaluation Instruments | Interview Protocol | Survey | Evaluation Reports | Summative
Environment Type: 
Public Programs, Community Outreach Programs, Museum and Science Center Programs
Families | Museum/ISE Professionals | Evaluators
Education and learning science
University of Washington, Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture

This mixed-methods evaluation, which was conducted at the request of the museum’s Communications department, answers two questions about a suite of special family events at the Burke Museum. First, this project sought to develop a profile of Family Day visitors – including any differences in audiences across individual events, and how visitors were receiving information about the events. Second, this evaluation sought to explore visitors’ expectations of and experiences at the events. Specific evaluation questions included the extent to which expectations and experiences aligned with one another, as well as which experiences visitors identified as most meaningful or unique about Family Days. Pre-entry surveys (n=394) and exit interviews (n=91) provided the data set for this evaluation. Visitor profile questions were developed in consultation with the Burke Communications office; questions related to expectations and experiences were built around a set of seven verbs (see, touch, listen, talk, make, try, and learn) that echoed the types of experiences that are available at Family Day events. The visitor profile, when discussing the majority of respondents, yielded information that was sometimes unsurprising – the prevalence of children under age 12 in visitor groups, for example. However several aspects of this data offer interesting opportunities for both further discussion and action steps. The significant proportions of young adult visitors and non-members among survey respondents are two striking examples. In terms of visitors’ expectations and experiences, the Family Day audience seems to know what will happen at the event. Interviewees’ top expectations and top experiences generally tracked together; when they diverged, it usually indicated that visitors were engaging in activities that they had not expected (rather than expecting activities that did not occur). When visitors at the different events were asked what made Family Days different from other family activities, they volunteered a rich variety of observations. These unique or special elements varied from one event to another. This evaluation was not conducted with the goal of recommending changes to the Burke’s suite of Family Day events. Rather, it was designed to shed light on one aspect of the museum’s audience, and offer clues about the extent to which the Communications department’s work effectively reaches audiences and represents one set of programs. Because the goals for this project were descriptive in nature, we hope that this report can serve as a starting point for further analysis and reflection among the Burke staff, so that they might decide for themselves how best to apply the findings to their work. The appendix of this report includes the survey instrument and interview instruments used in the study.


Team Members

Emily CraigEmily CraigEvaluator
Betsy O'BrienBetsy O'BrienEvaluator
Renae YoungsRenae YoungsEvaluator

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