2021 Virtual Conference Session Descriptions

Accessible Programming for Visitors with Vision-Impairment in Small Canadian Museums

Presenter: Shannon Millar
Session Type: Individual Paper

An individual paper presentation regarding the design of an accessible educational program for adult visitors with vision-impairment for small Canadian museums, using Glanmore National Historic Site as a case study.


Being, Learning, and Evaluating with Immigrant Families in Nature

Presenter: Jennifer Gauble
Session Type: Individual Paper

Despite Covid-19 related interruptions, Saint Louis Zoo educators piloted family nature experiences on new Zoo property. While testing program design and the outcomes of interest, enjoyment, and knowledge related to nature, rich experiences and stories emerged in this partnership with Kenyan immigrant families.


Building Data Culture Through Collaboration

Presenters: Ryan Auster, Rachel Wolff, Hannah Ridenour LaFrance, Sarah Lee
Session Type: Panel Presentation

Wondering about collecting visitor experience data? Curious about data literacy? Planning a convening? In this session, researchers will share their experience of “using while building” data collection and assessment tools toward developing cultures of data use, with an invitation for attendees to give feedback and join collaborative field-wide processes.


Building from Within: Employee Engagement Studies & the Evaluator’s Role

Presenters: Rita Deedrick, Stephen Ashton, Ph.D., Evelyn Christian Ronning, Ph.D.
Session Type: Panel Presentation

How can staff effectively and equitably contribute to organizational change? How can evaluators amplify their voices? Can evaluators inform decision-making about staff engagement? Hear from three evaluators who have ventured into the world of employee engagement studies, and bring your thoughts on how to engage our most vital resource – people.


Building Strategic Evaluation Learning Partnerships Between Museums and University Students

Presenters: Christina Smiraglia, Angelina Ong, Mollie Kreb, Erik Pihl

Session Type: Panel Presentation

Two teams of visitor studies instructors and their museum partners will discuss their experiences developing and implementing collaborative student projects, both on-site and online.  Panelists will share tips for other university programs, museum staff, and visitor studies students about the benefits and challenges of this kind of museum-university partnership model.


Centering Community: A Radical Discussion for Change in Visitor Research

Presenters: Anna Rebecca Lopez, Molly O'Connor
Session Type: Facilitated Discussion

Nonprofit professionals are craving a brave-space to discuss the nonprofit's white-dominant culture problem. In this facilitated discussion, the facilitators talk about how Community Centric Fundraising’s 10 principles can be a great first step (and they aren’t event fundraisers, they are evaluators!). This discussion will use a caucus-by-race format.


Community Partner Driven Data Analysis of Juneteenth at the Nelson-Atkins

Presenters: Alyssa Carr, Kreshaun McKinney
Session Type: Individual Paper

Evaluation and program staff working at an art museum present a case study on their experiences using participatory evaluation approaches for a study of Juneteenth, the museum’s first festival celebrating African American culture and history. Presentation to focus on participatory analysis methods and how this approach improves community impact.


Creating Inclusive Narratives in Genetics Exhibits

Presenters: Katherine Carter, Abigail Howell, Keighley Reisenauer, Michelle Valkanas
Session Type: Hosted Presentation

Genetics literacy is becoming increasingly important, but many barriers exist to reaching diverse audiences. This project seeks to understand the construction of these narratives through a meta-analysis and curator interviews. We outline three different approaches to creating inclusive genetics exhibits and discuss effective design choices to realize each approach.


Determinants of Cultural Attraction Visitation and Environmental Attitudes and Behaviors

Presenter: Amy Niedbalski
Session Type: Individual Paper

In order to identify strategies to improve representation and equity in conservation learning experiences, the Saint Louis Zoo undertook an extensive research study among diverse community members to understand the relationships between area demographics, cultural attraction visitation, lifestyle and experiences, and the association of these with environmental attitudes and behaviors.


Essential Evaluators - A Call to Action

Presenters: Andréa Giron Mathern, Laureen Trainer
Session Type: Panel Presentation

A pandemic and social justice reckoning sent museums scrambling. The Essential Evaluators blog illuminates this journey and all of its lessons and new connections. Blog contributors will share stories of adapting techniques, examine racial equity in evaluation, posit why evaluation is crucial to re-opening, and imagine future roles for museums.


Front-End Evaluation with Children - Climb, Slide, Create, Explore

Presenter: Erin Tate
Session Type: Individual Paper

Conducting virtual focus groups with children (ages 4-8) led the Saint Louis Zoo’s exhibit interpretation team to make data-driven decisions about a new dinosaur exhibit while including a demographic often underutilized and underrepresented in exhibit design considerations.


Have you Ever Tried Documenting Aspects of Informal Engineering Learning? 

Presenters: Marcie Benne, Hoda Ehsan, Dorothy Bennett
Session Type: Facilitated Discussion

Informal engineering learning experiences can take many forms, from robotics sessions to full blown exhibits supporting physical design projects. For researchers, activity developers, and evaluators, identifying indicators of engineering learning is challenging. Come share your perspectives on capturing iterative design practices, unanticipated behaviors, soft skills like empathy, and more.


Holding up a Mirror: Reflecting on VSA’s Evaluator Competencies

Presenters: Jill Stein, Elizabeth Bolander, Cecilia Garibay, Evelyn Ronning
Session Type: Facilitate Discussion

It has been more than a decade since the current Evaluator Competencies were developed by VSA (https://www.visitorstudies.org/evaluator-competencies), and now feels like an important juncture at which to reflect on and reexamine what it means to be a visitor studies professional. Join us for an interactive dialogue on such critical issues as how the competencies could better support diversity, equity, access and inclusion in the institutions and communities in which we work.


MOMSI: Scaling a Tool for Measuring Museum Social Impact

Presenters: Kari Ross Nelson, Emily Johnson, Stephen Ashton, Ph.D., Michelle Mileham
Session Type: Panel Presentation

When museums talk about impact, that often refers to educational, economic, and social dimensions of impact. Of the three, social impact is perhaps the most elusive to measure. This session will describe efforts to do this at a single institution, at a regional level, and now at a national level.


More Than Face Value: Cultural Representation and Historical Interpreters

Presenter: Heather Kerr
Session Type: Individual Paper

This paper is a qualitative study of the lived experiences of historical interpreters navigating interactions and expectations concerning cultural representation within their professional practice as educators at living history museums.  Fourteen historical interpreters, half of whom identified as BIPOC were interviewed and shared their experiences working at living history museums in Alberta.   This study focuses on their experiences: of representing and being represented; with visitors and with museum administrators.


Partners and Communities Inspire Shifts in Evaluation and Research Practice

Presenters: Patricia Montaño, Kathryn Boyd, Shelly Valdez, Jill Stein
Session Type: Hosted Presentation

In designing educational experiences about water for rural, Indigenous and Latinx communities in the Southwest, our team changed our approach to and perspectives on evaluation and research. Our transformation was catalyzed by our growing understanding of cultural responsiveness, communities’ needs during the pandemic, and reimagining ways to center community voices.


Pivoting Practices: Complementary Strengths of Online and In-Person Evaluation Methods

Presenters: Meghan Kroning, Sylvia de la Piedra, Jenn Shepard

Session Types: Hosted Presentation

Description: How do we continue visitor studies when museums are closed to visitors?  This session examines approaches we took in online and in-person evaluations conducted during our museum closure. We will explore their advantages and limitations, and discuss possible benefits of continuing with these approaches even after museums fully reopen.


Productive Discomfort: Exploring Sensitive Subject Matter in Evaluations

Presenters: Claire Thoma Emmons, Susan Foutz, Rae Ostman, Lauren Zalut
Session Type: Hosted Presentation

Knowing that the need and desire for museums to wrestle with truths that expose structural inequity both internally and externally is greater than ever, presenters will share their experiences and invite attendees to contribute their own experience focusing on methods used in evaluation of topics like race, incarceration, and religion.


Reflections on Leading in 2020: The Only Constant Has Been Change

Presenters: Elizabeth Bolander, Rebekah Sobel, Michelle Maghari-Dong, Lindsay Maldonado, Ph.D.
Session Type: Panel Presentation

Leading a department can be a tricky road to walk at the best of times, but how do you adapt in the midst of global and field-wide change? Panelists will engage in dialogue about what they learned from being a manager through the many changes brought on by 2020.


Supporting our communities: Conducting Research in a Second Language

Presenters: Carla Herran, Smirla Ramos-Montanez
Session Type: Facilitate Discussion

This session will explore processes used for conducting research in a second language. Drawing from experience researching informal engineering education, the facilitators will engage participants in a rich, deep discussion that will draw on participants’ successes and challenges in supporting bilingual/ESL communities through research.


Technological Horizons: Learning Analytics in Museum Research

Presenter: Megan Goeke
Session Type: Individual Paper

The emerging field of Learning Analytics (LA) holds potential for understanding museum experiences in nuanced ways, weaving together multiple data streams and fully embracing the view of museum experiences as multifaceted. This paper seeks to understand how LA is currently used to understand museum learning via systematic literature review.


The Audience Has Left the Building: Online Learning and Evaluation

Presenters: Juan Dominguez-Flores, Zdanna King, Marjorie Bequette, 
Session Type: Facilitated Discussion

What learning outcomes characterize our now expanded online ISE experiences? What methods can we use to understand them? This roundtable is a forum for evaluators, educators, and experience designers to share how they met the challenge of a near instantaneous pivot to online learning for public audiences and how paradigm and methodology shifts might continue in future practice.


Transforming Museums from the Inside Out: The Role of Evaluation

Presenters: Kari Ross Nelson, Cecilia Garibay, Diane Miller, Elizabeth Kollman
Session Type: Hosted Presentation

The social, political, and health crises of 2020 laid bare disparities and social injustices that continue to impact communities and also raised questions about museums’ internal practices that often reify inequities. We explore the potential role of research and evaluation in organizational change and advancing more equitable internal museum practices.


Unpacking Privilege: Museum Educators’ Perspectives on Workforce Equity and Diversity

Presenters: Kathryn Rende, Dr. Gail Jones
Session Type: Individual Paper

The presenters have documented museum educators’ perspectives on the movements, forces, and policies that influence informal education careers. This session will amplify educators’ voices and encourage reflection on how internal workplace practices and cultures uphold systemic racism, patriarchy, and privilege. Attendees will discuss barriers to institutional change and brainstorm solutions.


Using Data from Digital Media for Reflection During a Time of Change

Presenters: Michelle Lentzner, Jamie Wallace, Jessica Sickler
Session Type: Hosted Presentation

This session will present an external evaluation of five interactive digital media elements and the resulting process of sense-making undertaken by the American Museum of Natural History. Participants will then discuss in small groups how they might put pre-pandemic data to use in reimagining visitor engagement in uncertain times.


With, Not On: Evaluation as a Commitment to Social Justice

Presenters: Choua Her, Amy Niedbalski, Ellen Roth
Session Type: Facilitated Discussion

What is our charge to keep pushing for equitable museum spaces within our institutions? How do our research and evaluation visions advance social justice? This session invites attendees to examine our assumptions and approaches in order to reimagine our work in the field during this historical moment in time.