Evaluation and Visitor Studies

Internal evaluation began at OMSI in 1986 with a single part-time evaluator. Evaluation & Visitor Studies became an official OMSI division in 2006 with three employees. Today, OMSI's Evaluation & Visitor Studies division is one of the largest internal museum evaluation teams in the country.

Whether you are interested in a small-scale research study or a multi-year project evaluation, we can help. Our division has worked on projects from a wide variety of funders, including NSF, NIH SEPA, IMLS, NASA, NOAA, U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Meyer Memorial Trust, Murdock Foundation, Collins Foundation, Intel Foundation, Intel Corporation, Spirit Mountain Foundation, and Gray Family Fund. With our bilingual team, we are able to provide all aspects of our services in Spanish and English.

To browse more examples of our work, please see the Evaluation Reports page.  

Quality

In every project, we work to ensure that our evaluation methods and findings are ethical, accurate, useful, and culturally responsive.

Ethical

We are dedicated to fostering and maintaining a culture of ethical responsibility and competency in human research at OMSI and in the visitor studies and informal science education (ISE) fields. We adhere to guidelines for human subject research, including documented protocols for the storage, retention, and destruction of data. Our division maintains the OMSI-wide Human Research Protection Program (HRPP) and manages OMSI's federal-wide assurance issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Accurate

We use rigorous data collection and analysis procedures appropriate to the scope, goals, and phase of the project and follow thorough data collection, entry, and analysis review protocols, including specific guidelines for collecting and analyzing data in multiple languages. Our evaluations are grounded in current learning research, aligned with nationally recognized educational frameworks, and based on best practices and standards in qualitative, quantitative, and mixed-method research traditions. We have experience using a broad range of data collection techniques, including interviews, questionnaires, focus groups, and naturalistic observation, and have worked with a variety of audiences, such as teens, young children, families, teachers, and museum professionals.

Useful

We collaborate with project teams during all phases of evaluation, serving as objective, critical friends and working with team members to articulate clear goals and uphold quality standards. Our evaluation team represents a broad range of backgrounds and experiences, with expertise in ISE program and exhibit development and evaluation, science education, museum studies, public health, psychology, and marketing, as well as a variety of practitioner-oriented approaches, such as community-based evaluation and practitioner inquiry. We are committed to disseminating findings in useful, accessible formats and strive to contribute to the broader fields of visitor studies and informal science education.

Culturally Responsive

The Evaluation & Visitor Studies division supports OMSI's commitment to accessibility, including proactive practices to increase staff and volunteer diversity and develop sustainable programs and strategies that engage underserved audiences. In particular, the division supports OMSI's commitment to bilingual and culturally relevant accessibility for the growing Hispanic community in the region and has extensive experience collecting and analyzing data in both English and Spanish. Guided by research-based practices in culturally inclusive and responsive evaluation, we work to involve diverse communities during all phases of a project.

Services

Exhibit evaluation:

Evaluation offers opportunities at each stage of the exhibit development process to test the effectiveness of main messages, interpretive approaches, and physical features through feedback from target audiences. 
 

Program evaluation:

Program evaluation most often looks at the actual program outcomes in relation to intended program outcomes. Sometimes program evaluation also includes process evaluation that examines whether a program is implemented as designed.
 

Audience research and visitor studies:

This type of research is conducted to learn more about visitors and non-visitors. These studies can provide information such as demographic characteristics, participation patterns, visitor motivations, interests, and activities.
 

Institutional support:

Our team supports the development and advancement of institutional strategic and operational initiatives through research, planning, implementation, and measurement. This work informs major decision making related to an organization's mission, target audiences, content areas, services, and triple-bottom line.
 
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