Monday, November 29, 2010

Small museum websites

Aust Country Music Hall of Fame

Barrie Brennan, an EVRSIG member who volunteers at the Australian Country Music Hall of Fame in Tamworth, asks how small museums can find out more about the people who visit their website. He has a couple of questions:

  1. Who is visiting the website?
  2. What do they want to find out?

My first suggestion is to use Google Analytics to gather general information about the number of visitors, where they are from and which pages they visit. Google Analytics is a free service and not too tricky to set up. You open an account at Google Analytics and go through a few steps to generate some code that you put on your website. I have set this up for this blog so I know how many are visiting.

Finding out why people visit your website is much more labour intensive. If you have a large volume of visitors, you could try setting up a very brief online survey, or you could incorporate a couple of questions into surveys you might run during the Country Music Festival.

What advice do others have? Do you have any suggestions for small museums?

Contributed by Gillian Savage

Visitor Touchpoints

The concept of Visitor Touchpoints helps us to regard the visitor experience as a multi-faceted whole comprised of a variety of contacts or touchpoints. Each place or time where the visitor makes contact with you is a touchpoint and an opportunity to influence their overall experience. Museums and galleries can provide  stronger and more positive visitor experience by identifying the full range of touchpoints and working to ensure that they offer consistent experiences across all potential contacts – including website, telephone, printed resources, physical site and staff/volunteer contacts.

Many visitors will go to your website to prepare for a physical visit, or other purposes. Some may contact you by phone, or interact with your booking system. Then there is the physical visit where the first touchpoint may be your car park entry, or the task to find the front door!

For ticketed venues, the ticket counter is an important touchpoint where various bits of business are transacted.

Museum Boijman van Beuningem, Rotterdam

Repeat visitors will probably have a routine guided by what they want to see. In contrast, first-time visitors want to know how best to spend their time – what is there to see/do, and where things are  located.

Once onsite, first impressions and first contacts set the tone of the whole visit. This concept has been widely adopted in retail, hospitality and tourism settings where staff are trained to greet every customer/guest with a smile and welcoming statement.

Without care, there is potential for important touchpoints to be less positive. In many museums and galleries visitors are left to 'self-manage' which can leave first-time visitors adrift. In some venues, the first contact may be with security personnel who focus more on compliance issues than enhancing visitor experiences. An instruction about backpacks is not a warm and friendly first personal touchpoint. 

Wayfinding signage and interpretive signs/devices are some of the most extensive touchpoints throughout museums and galleries that help to create the full richness of a visitor experience.

Some museums use functional touchpoints as interpretive devices in themselves.  At the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg visitors are allocated tickets saying either 'white' or 'non-white' and they enter through different doors. Once inside, 'whites' and 'non-whites' are kept apart for a short while before visiting groups can reunite.

Apartheid Museum, Johannesburg

What issues arise at your venue with respect to Visitor Touchpoints?

Contributed by Gillian Savage

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Graduate Certificate in Survey and Market Research Methods

Some of you may be interested in this new course that teaches some of the social research skills used in Visitor Studies.

The new Graduate Certificate in Survey and Market Research Methods, will be delivered by the University of Wollongong (UoW) at its Sydney campus from January next year.

The certificate is the result of a partnership between AMSRS, AMSRO and University of Wollongong and has been developed to reflect the needs of the social research industry. 
The course has been structured so interstate travellers might also attend. Over the year, students will need to attend lectures for a total of 20 days over four terms. Classes will be held every second Friday at the Sydney Business School located in the Sydney CBD, starting in late January. 

The course fee in 2011 will be $8,820 ($2,205 per subject).

Entry requirements
Applicants must have a bachelor degree in a relevant discipline from a recognised institution and at least two years relevant professional work experience. 

Professor David Steel - Centre for Statistical and Survey Methodology
University of Wollongong
Wollongong NSW 2522
Phone: +61 2 4221 5435


Contributed by Gillian Savage

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Living histories

When a town passes its heyday or a tool or craft or industry is superceded, it is consigned to 'history'. Once it is dead and buried in history, it loses substance and becomes a wraith with little power other than that of curiosity.

Museums that house these wraiths of past times have little pulling power for new audiences. But museums that invoke the life in their stories and collections remain relevant and attractive to audiencs across the generations.

I'd like to share three examples where museums and historic places have brought life and relevance to their heritage material.

At the Queensland Art Gallery in October, I wandered past one of the most loved paintings in the collection. The vibrant 'Under the Jacaranda' was painted in 1903 by Richard Godfrey Rivers portraying the first jacaranda grown in Australia, in Brisbane's Botanic Gardens.

I was delighted to see a scattering of jacaranda blossoms on the floor under the painting.

Under the Jacaranda by Richard Godfrey Rivers

I'm not sure who scattered the petals there, but it is clear that they are acceptable to the Gallery. This little touch of whimsy tells visitors that someone, today, appreciates the way this painting celebrates one of the beauties of our world. Bringing a smile, it surprises and enlarges the visitor experience. 

Visiting Salisbury Cathedral in 2008, I was struck by the facade of the West Wall. Most medieval cathedrals struggle to keep the roof intact and when decorative bits fail, they are rarely replaced. Many a niche is empty or has little more than a worn remnant of the original statue.

At Salisbury the West Wall is full of statues, though only 10 date back to 1300 when the wall was first completed. In recent centuries, old statues have been replaced by new ones. But they are not replicas of the originals, instead they represent contemporary people while still conforming to the original iconography based on the Te Deum.

The latest addition was in 2008, when the cathedral added a statue of Canon Ezra, a Sudanese a priest who was killed by cross-fire during the civil war in 1991.

Canon Ezra

This contemporary statue has the remarkable effect of transforming the West Wall into a living history wall. Suddenly, you are not really visiting a medieval cathedral, you are visiting a contemporary workplace that happens to be housed in a remarkable building.

There's nothing more energising than a shift in framing!

Finally, the Australian War Memorial keeps alive a practice of commemoration that is meaningful and moving for many visitors.  Daily and annual rituals refresh appreciation for the dedication, courage, commitment and sacrifice of those who have defended Australia and served in the armed forces.

Anzac Day 2001

Living ritual is one way to engage visitors and nurture meaningful connections. What rituals does your museum have?

Contributed by Gillian Savage

Thursday, November 4, 2010

New entrance at NGA

The new entrance and galleries at the National Gallery of Australia trigger some thoughts about the visitor experience.

Firstly, the new entrance is visible from the street and easy to find from the car parks. It sounds simple, but the previous entrance failed this test. 

As well as being visible, the entry provides shelter which is a transition between outdoors and the interior. Even on a fine day, a sheltered porch conveys a sense of welcome. On hot, cold, windy and wet days, this welcome is even more important.

New entrance to National Gallery of Australia

The cafe umbrellas and trees beside the entrance provide a contrasting human-scale social zone that invites visitors to linger and enjoy conversation. Our research has shown that the conversations that follow a museum/gallery visit play an important role in synthesising the experience and consolidating learning.

Of course, the simple pleasure of relaxing outdoors with companions also enhances the experience of a museum/gallery visit.

I am coming to think that the pleasure of being there is at the core of most successful visitor experiences.

Contributed by Gillian Savage