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Five simple tips for successful museum evaluation

Plain teal background with wording which reads as: Culture Syndicates' evaluation tips for your project

Five simple tips for successful museum evaluation

Three images. All outdoors. In the first picture a male employee is holding a clipboard and surveying two women. In the second image a female employee is holding a clipboard and smiling at a man she is surveying. In the third image two women stand looking at a clipboard and stand in front of a canvas board.

Love it or hate it, evaluation is integral to twenty-first century museum practice. As a mandatory requirement for funded projects and a useful tool for business planning, evaluation is ubiquitous in the museum sector. From visitor surveying, to interviews, to focus groups, evaluation comes in all shapes and sizes. When done well, evaluation can be fruitful, cost-effective and time efficient. That being said, here are Culture Syndicates’ top tips for successful museum evaluation:

1 – Know your purpose

Before designing your evaluation, ask yourself what you are evaluating and why. Do you need data to evaluate your HLF funded project? Are you hoping to find out more about your museum’s users and non-users? Have clear and realistic expectations of your data and the impact that you want it to have on your future work. Once you have established a clear purpose for your data collection, you will then be able to design your method with this purpose in mind.

2 – Consider your audience

Design your data collection method with your audience in mind. Perhaps your audience is made up entirely of children, in which case you might want to be creative with your data collection method and keep text to a minimum. There are many ways to collect data, so think about that which best suits your target audience’s age and ability.

3 – Make your method accessible

As an extension of considering your audience, also think about how you can make your method of data collection accessible to all. The steps to making writing – online or printed – accessible are straightforward and you probably already use them naturally. Make your writing clear and brief and keep sentence structures simple. Use plain and evenly spaced fonts in twelve to fourteen point and keep text dark and the background light. If you need to use emphasis, favour bold and large font over italics and underlined text. If your survey is based online, follow the above tips to make the writing easier for text-to-speech readers. You can find further tips for best practice on the Survey Money Website (Survey Monkey Accessibility Guidelines).

4 – Learn the art of planning surveys

Whatever format you choose for your evaluation, ensure that the questions have simple wording, a logical sequence and are of an appropriate length and level of depth for your purpose. Ensure that all questions help you determine whether your original goals and objectives have been met, or get to the heart of the information that you need to know about your audience.

5 – When and where?

When you have drafted your evaluation method, determine when and where you will carry out the data collection. Timing and location will affect the success of your evaluation; greater footfall means a larger data sample. With a larger data sample, you can be more confident in the representativeness of the resulting data.  If your survey is based online or takes the form of interviews and focus groups, determine the amount of time that you will need to collect sufficient amounts of data and work that into your evaluation plan.

Can we help you further?

At Culture Syndicates, we have years of experience in evaluation. Our team provide a comprehensive evaluation service – from method design, to analysis and reporting – at competitive prices. Our experienced team can provide the capacity and skills to evaluate your projects or track your audience. Take a look at our previous evaluation projects linked below and get in touch if you think we can help. To discuss how we can help you in more detail, please call Hollie Davison (Head of Projects) on 07929215264.

By Natasha Clegg, Projects Officer 

Framework Knitters Museum

Nottingham City Council Surveying

National Trust Innovation Group

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