Past Topics

VSA offers opportunities for professionals and students to further hone their skills through webinars, web chats, book clubs, and virtual networking. Virtual learning offerings address a variety of topics in our field and provide helpful resources and strategies relevant to a wide range of practitioners. These offerings provide opportunities for audience engagement, and provide time for participants to ask questions. Members of VSA receive discounted registration to these events, so consider joining!

If you have ideas or suggestions for future PD events, please let us know at [email protected].

Share your Voice! Town Hall on VSA’s DEAI Priorities and Action Steps
Recorded Live on October 14, 2020

As VSA continues its work to center diversity, equity, access, and inclusion (DEAI) in its organizational practices and policies, outreach and membership offerings, and leadership in the visitor studies and informal learning fields, we want to make sure that the voices of members and professionals in our community are engaged and included in the process. As part of our quarterly DEAI Webchat series, we invite you to a free web chat designed to:

  • Gather feedback and input on a draft of VSA’s DEAI Priorities and Action Steps document, based on our work to date
  • Better understand the implications and needs surrounding these priorities for members and professionals in our field
  • Refine and strengthen the priorities and action steps
  • Create opportunities for involvement in multiple DEAI efforts

The DEAI Task Force invites you to join us for a participatory dialogue to help inform VSA’s DEAI initiatives, share knowledge and insights, and help shape the next steps along this pathway. Please come with your ideas and questions related to the VSA's DEAI Priorities and Action Steps document.

Evaluation Goals, Methods, and Ongoing Insights for Widening Access and Relevance in the Smithsonian’s Fossil Hall

Members of the team tasked with renovating the Smithsonian’s Hall of Fossils – Deep Time exhibition share the struggles, lessons learned, and findings from their seven-year mammoth project. Topics include key takeaways from audience research, communication of challenging topics like climate change and evolution, and keys to broadening accessibility and inclusion. The group will also share methodological considerations and lessons learned from the exhibition, audience research program, and accessibility project.

Watch a recording of this presentation here.

Culture Track: A Two Part Series

In this time of upheaval, museums, zoos, aquariums, and cultural organizations have wondered how they can best support and remain relevant to their communities. Join VSA's two-part series on Culture Track: a national study led by LaPlaca Cohen and Slover Linett to uncover how organizations can be responsive to and benefit their communities while grappling with adjustments in light of COVID-19.

Culture Track Part 1: Findings and Methodologies for Culture and Community in a Time of Crisis
Members of the Slover Linett and LaPlaca Cohen teams provide an overview of key takeaways for organizations looking to better understand and connect with their audiences as well as the general public during Covid-19. The group will also share methodological considerations and lessons learned from designing, coordinating, analyzing, and reporting on a field-wide initiative that scaled from an initial expected 10,000 responses to over 120,000.
Panelists include:

Jen Benoit-Bryan, Slover Linett
Madeline Smith, Slover Linett
Kriti Mira Adhikari, LaPlaca Cohen

Watch a recording of this presentation here.

Culture Track Part 2: Interpreting and Implementing Culture and Community in a Time of Crisis

A panel of cultural industry professionals discuss how their organizations have used the Culture Track study to inform decisions during Covid, and how findings fit with other research studies undertaken during Covid-19.
Panelists include:
Caroline Goeser, Museum of Fine Art, Houston
Lindsay Maldonado, Shedd Aquarium
Sunil Iyengar, National Endowment for the Arts
Jen Benoit-Bryan, Slover Linett

Watch a recording of this presentation here.

VSA’s Zoo & Aquarium Focus Interest Group (ZAFIG) Virtual Mini Conference!

While we can't meet in person this year, VSA’s Zoo and Aquarium Focused Interest Group (ZAFIG) wanted to provide a virtual opportunity for our community to present work being done in zoos and aquariums from the past year. Focusing on hot topics in the zoo-aquarium field, this conference-like web chat will include 5 mini-sessions that allow for sharing, learning, and dialogue. Our exciting slate of presentations includes:

  • The Impact of Human-animal Imagery on Public Attitudes Towards Zoos and Wildlife- Meghan Shaw, Zoos Victoria and Deakin University
  • Community Co-Design of Educational Programming with an Undeveloped Zoological Park- Amy Niedbalski, Saint Louis Zoo, Director, Conservation Audience Research & Evaluation (CARE)
  • Exploring the Relationship Between Empathy for Animals and Environmental Self-Efficacy in Zoo and Aquarium Visitors, Linnea Johnson, M.A. Museology and Emerging Zoo & Aquarium Evaluator and Communicator
  • Community Engagement through Facebook Live During a Worldwide Pandemic- Nichole Nageotte, Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, Conservation Education Researcher
  • Cracking Open Old Reports: Revisiting Past Data to Guide Future Directions-Emily O’Hara, Detroit Zoological Society, Curator of Exhibit Design
A recording of this presentation is available to VSA members, please email association headquarters to receive access.

Conducting Community-Based Research: What We Learned as Beginners

In this convening, community partners and Exploratorium researchers will describe an NSF-funded exhibition and research project, called Middle Ground. The Middle Ground experience is facilitated by community partners and includes exhibits that support exploration of social science research into bias and stereotyping, humor and generosity, how we work together, and how we pull apart into tribes.

Audience researcher and consultant Cecilia Garibay will describe key principles for conducting community-based research and evaluation that attends to and incorporates community context while a panel of presenters will share examples of implementing these principles in practice. We will conclude by sharing challenges and insights from this approach.

Watch a recording of this presentation here.

Google Analytics 101: Understanding Your Visitors’ Behavior Online

Learn ways that Google Analytics can help you uncover insights into your website visitors and app users. Presenters will share examples of how they use it to understand visitor behavior online.


  • Elizabeth Bolander, Cleveland Museum of Art
  • Sewon Barrera, Exploratorium
  • Sandra Kaiser, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum


  • Elizabeth will start by sharing a step-by-step look at some of the most popular and basic Google Analytics features that the Cleveland Museum of Art team utilizes in their work monitoring websites and the ArtLens App.
  • Sewon will share key Google Analytics tips to analyze and curate visitor experience on a museum website.
  • Sandra will discuss a case study of how analytics has guided content and production work for online resources at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
  • Participants will also have a chance to swap ideas for other potential Google Analytics uses to inform visitor studies and ask questions of the panelists.
A recording of this presentation is available to VSA members, please email association headquarters to receive access.

Attending to Diversity, Equity, Access and Inclusion in the Time of Coronavirus

Featuring Dr. Cecilia Garibay (The Garibay Group).

During this web convening, we discussed the following:
• Support conversation and dialogue around DEAI efforts in the time of Coronavirus
• Share challenges and reflect on strategies for focusing attention on DEAI at the institutional level
• Envision the role that visitor studies professionals can play in advocating for or supporting DEAI efforts during this time and into the future, as museums and other informal learning institutions begin to redefine who they are and how they serve communities

A recording of this presentation is available to VSA members, please email association headquarters to receive access.

Conducting Focus Groups In-Person and Online

Focus groups are a key visitor studies methodology, although they can be costly. In this web chat, presenters will provide tips for budget-friendly focus group approaches that can be employed both in-person and online. The goals for the web chat are to:

  • Share examples of how internal evaluators have executed focus groups in a budget-friendly manner
  • Provide tips for effectively conducting focus groups in-person and online
  • Discuss challenges, opportunities, and ways participants have been adapting focus group methodologies with respect to the current environment of reduced budgets and social distancing

Watch a recording of this presentation here.

Reflections on “Racism, Unrest, and the Role of the Museum Field”

In the midst of global anti-racism protests and civil unrest, many museums and informal learning institutions have publicly committed to supporting racial justice and rejected the idea of returning to “business as usual” as they begin to reopen. Inspired by the recent AAM panel, “Racism, Unrest, and the Role of Museums” (Lonnie Bunch, Johnetta Cole, and Lori Fogerty), this web chat will focus on questions around the role of visitor studies and evaluation in supporting transformational change in the museum field, such as:

  • What is the nature of conversations in your institution around racism and social justice?
  • To what extent are museums addressing racial inequity within the organization and supporting racial justice movements in the broader community, and how can visitor studies and audience research inform these efforts?
  • How can evaluators help to hold our informal learning institutions accountable for anti-racist statements and commitments?
  • Finally, as Dr. Lonnie Bunch asks of museums, how should the visitor studies field respond to these social crises and what should be our role in the struggle against systemic racism?

Watch a recording of this presentation here.