VSA Week: Kathleen Tinworth on An Introduction to Visitor Studies Online

Hey there. My name is Kathleen Tinworth and I am the Director of Visitor Research & Program Evaluation at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. It’s my pleasure to finish up the week of visitor studies posts.

For many of you AEA365 readers, this week was the first time you’d ever heard of visitor studies. I know the feeling! I didn’t always work in a museum; I have only been in the sector for 3 years. I remember when I first read the job description for my position. I thought, “Evaluation in a museum? Incredible! That sounds like the coolest job ever.” Turns out I was right! At the time, I hadn’t considered the valuable role evaluation can and should play in cultural institutions.

Before jumping into visitor studies, I designed and conducted evaluations for criminal justice agencies and child welfare organizations. I got linked into AEA through that work and have stayed connected. One of the things I love about AEA is the exposure to and connections across different disciplines. I am always inspired by how adaptable and relevant methodologies, instruments, and data collection techniques can be across diverse fields. I hope this week’s AEA365 provided you with some new, fun, and creative ways to think about evaluation in your own work through the lens of visitor studies.

The VSA AEA group is really looking forward to meeting many of you at the AEA conference this November in San Antonio! Make sure you look out for us and say hello!

Here are some of my favorite “rad resources” online to further introduce you to the world of visitor studies:

Rad Resource: The Visitor Studies Association (VSA, http://visitorstudies.org/) is committed to understanding and enhancing visitor experiences in informal learning settings through research, evaluation, and dialogue. All the AEA365 bloggers this week are active members (including the current VSA president herself, Kirsten Ellenbogen). An absolute essential on the website is the full searchable archive (http://www.visitorstudiesarchives.org/) where you can access and download some fantastic articles and papers—for FREE!

Rad Resource: CARE (which stands for Committee on Audience Research and Evaluation, http://www.care-aam.org/) is a standing professional committee within the American Association of Museums. Check out their directory of evaluators (http://www.care-aam.org/documents/directory_of_evaluators/directory_of_evaluators_2009.pdf) to find someone in your area!

Rad Resource: Informal Science online (http://informalscience.org/) isn’t all about science. It’s a phenomenal resource and online community for informal learning projects, research and evaluation. You will find news, interviews from the field, funding opportunities, upcoming conferences and events—not to mention a virtual clearinghouse of published and unpublished studies and results. Like the VSA archives, it’s FREE!

This contribution is from the aea365 Tip-a-Day Alerts, by and for evaluators, from the American Evaluation Association. We are pleased to welcome colleagues from the Visitor Studies Association – many of whom are also members of AEA – as guest contributors this week. Look for contributions preceded by “VSA Week” here and on AEA’s weekly headlines and resources list.

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