Upcoming 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 would like to make suggestions for future Professional Development topics, please contact [email protected]. For technical assistance accessing the hangout, please contact [email protected].

** All fee-based web chats will be recorded. Those recordings will be sent out to registered participants after the session (both those who joined live and those who did not). The slide decks and chat messages shared during the live session will not be made available since they should be interpreted within the context of the speakers’ presentations. Participants during the live session do have the ability to save the chat to their devices.

 Upcoming JARFIG (Justice and Anti-Racism Focused Interest Group) Meetings:

Please join us for our monthly, informal conversations focused on the role of evaluation and visitors studies in supporting diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice within informal learning institutions, which may or may not have a strong justice or anti-racist stance. These conversations will be free and open to VSA members, non members are welcome to attend at a $5 registration rate.

It was so great to connect with many of you at the VSA Virtual conference (July 13-15) and to hear your thoughts on what you’d like to focus on in the JARFIG as we move forward. Based on your great ideas, we are planning the following for our upcoming meetings (note the new time!):

September 23, 4pm ET

Book club: Share your thoughts!


Please join the next Justice and Anti-Racism FIG Meeting! We will be trying out a "book group" format using this AEA Blog focused on decolonizing the language of evaluation. There are a couple of links within the blog, so we can include those in our conversation, as well as our own thoughts and reflections on this topic. 

VSA Workshop: DIY Evaluation Series
September 1, 15, and 29 from 1:00-2:30pm ET


Learn how traditional evaluation practice can be adapted for practitioner-driven visitor studies. Investigate ways to embed visitor evaluation studies into existing programs, exhibitions, or online experiences, making data collection more time efficient for practitioners and an enjoyable reflective learning activity for the visitor. Workshop concrete techniques and ideas for use in your own institution. Help create new and innovative methods with other museum practitioners. Have fun and inspire yourself at the same time.

This online course includes three, 90-minute workshops held bi-weekly. Workshops will be interactive in nature, with time for small and large group discussions and time to brainstorm ideas for your own project with colleagues from your own institution or with museum practitioners from other organizations. Throughout the course, we will explore ways that museum professionals can incorporate “evaluative thinking” principles of action research into their professional practice. We call this DIY-evaluation: evaluation activities suited for the busy practitioner. As a course project, participants will use an existing program or exhibition from their institution as a test case for applying principles learned in this course. Facilitators can assist participants who do not already have a specific program or exhibition in mind prior to starting the course. The methodological focus for the course will be on experimenting with innovative data collection strategies that are practical for museum educators to implement themselves and also safe and responsible for ongoing health and safety concerns related to the Covid-19 pandemic. Between the webinar sessions, participants will be encouraged to conduct a Rapid-Response evaluation study at their own institutions. The course breakdown is as follows:

Pre-Assignment - Select a program or exhibition in your institution to use as a test case in your project for this course. Ideally it should be a program/exhibition with which you have some degree of involvement or control. However, this doesn’t have to be the case. If you aren’t currently working in a place where you can do this project, then course facilitators will work with you to discuss other options.

Workshop 1: Asking the Right Questions - The first workshop will focus on developing good evaluation questions and providing strategies practitioners can use to simplify and prioritize questions. Participants will have time to generate questions for their own studies and come up with an inquiry plan.

Workshop 2: Selecting and Adapting Data Collection Methods – The second workshop will introduce participants to adaptations of traditional data collection techniques, suggest ways that data collection can be embedded in what practitioners already do (not adding more to their already too- busy schedules), and encourage museum practitioners to be playful about the ways they can systematically learn more about their visitors. Participants will have time to discuss different methods with their colleagues and select a method that is best aligned with their inquiry plan.

Post- Workshop 2 Homework - Create a protocol and any instruments for your selected method. You can share your instruments with course facilitators for feedback prior to collecting any data. Collect your test data with 10-20 people.

Workshop 3: Making Sense of Your Data – The final workshop will introduce strategies for making sense of your data, as well as practitioner-friendly approaches for sharing your findings with others. Participants will have time to work on analyzing their data and create a plan for sharing their findings/stories with others.

Our goal in this course is to push you to think differently and innovatively about the museum visitor experience. Our desire is that your work in this course has direct application to your work in your museum. If you are not currently working in a museum then we will work to connect you with a museum in your city where you can do real work for real people. The goal is also to have a lot of fun while pushing a lot of envelopes.

Participants will:

  1. Learn how to create DIY evaluation questions;
  2. Learn about how “bits” of traditional evaluation practice can be simplified and adapted for practitioner-driven visitor studies;
  3. Investigate ways adapted evaluation data collection strategies can be embedded in programs and exhibitions, making data collection more time efficient for practitioners and an enjoyable reflective activity for the visitor;
  4. Practice DIY evaluation techniques they can use at their own institutions;
  5. Practice making sense of data;
  6. Share their discoveries with other participants.

Small, medium, and large museums share an interest in better understanding their visitors. Not all museums can afford to hire outside evaluators and those that can make better choices when they have some personal experience with designing and conducting their own small studies. Evaluation novices can benefit from this as an introduction to evaluative thinking and practitioner-led inquiry. Those more experienced with evaluation can gain new ideas and approaches to invigorate their thinking and positively impact their practice. This webinar is designed primarily for museum practitioners, not specialists in visitor research. However, experienced evaluators who want to help practitioners conduct their own explorations into visitor motivations, interests, and behaviors will find this workshop helpful.

* This workshop series is $90 for VSA members and $135 for non-members

October 15, 3pm ET

Museum Funding Opportunities from the Institute of Museum and Library Services: 1-Month to Deadline Webchat


IMLS program staff will facilitate this interactive webinar geared to potential applicants for its November 15, 2021 deadline. The session will include an overview of IMLS's six museum grant programs, examples of successful proposals, and tips for submitting competitive proposals. There will be plenty of time for questions and discussion about project ideas and the grant application process. We encourage you to see IMLS’s webinars about each specific grant program for detailed information about eligibility requirements, allowable activities and expenses, and application components. Videos, slides, and transcripts are available here:

Inspire! Grants for Small Museums

Museums Empowered: Professional Development Opportunities for Museum Staff

Museums for America

National Leadership Grants for Museums

Museum Grants African American History and Culture

Native American / Native Hawaiian Museum Services

This event is free to members and non-members.