Listening to Our Audience

I’m really glad that my first experience at the International Spy Museum happened during a trip when I was mindful of looking for the ways in which storytelling is presented. I was able to pick out the smaller stories that combine to make the larger narrative and themes of the museum. I could see why designers chose the stories that they did, which ones worked, and which didn’t. The best part of our visit today, for me, was that the specialists at the Spy Museum were aware of what worked and what didn’t, so much so that they could anticipate our problems and praise. This is because of the systems of visitor feedback and evaluation that they have used over the years to gauge visitor response. 

What worked for me: the hidden entrance to a prison

I was glad to hear that they use a variety of methods of evaluation at the Spy Museum, including comment cards and Trip Advisor, where they respond to visitor comments. I do believe that it’s important to not only listen to what your audience says, but to let them know that you’re listening and taking their concerns to heart. As a result of the museum doing this, they are able to better design their new building to suit visitor needs. 

As I work directly with the visitor experience, I can say that I get feedback quite regularly. I always do what I can to make sure that visitors know that I care about what they have to say, and that I will make sure their comments get back to the right people. 

What didn’t work for me: the Rosetta Stone. In a spy museum?

I think my biggest take away from today’s presentation at the Spy Museum will be that accountability in evaluation matters. We always say that we want to be having a conversation with our visitors, and as a result, we have to make sure that means we are taking the good with the bad. Concerns should never fall on deaf ears, even if it’s something that hurts our pride as museum professionals. Like I always say, nothing that we do matters if our visitors stop coming through the doors, and evaluation can help to ensure that they keep coming back. 

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Museums are for Everyone

Visiting the Smithsonian National Museum of American History and the National Gallery of Art today really opened my eyes to the challenges and absolute necessity of accessibility in exhibit and general building design. All of our experiences this week would have been vastly different if I had any accessibility issues in a museum that didn’t take its visitor experiences into account. Thankfully, all of the institutions we’ve visited so far have done exactly that. 

Picasso at NGA

I can’t imagine someone coming to these amazing institutions and being denied the complete, meaningful experience that I’ve been able to enjoy when I arrive in Washington each day. The Museum in the Morning program at the Smithsonian Institute stands out to me as an organization with programming that goes the extra mile to be a caring member of the community. Going beyond allowing families early access to the museums, they actively seek out families with that need. 

Matisse at NGA


I think my biggest take away from today will be that accessibility goes beyond ADA requirements. It means trying your best to provide a quality experience for everyone who walks through the door. Accessibility should be on equal footing with other needs of the budget if we mean to serve our communities and be an active member of them. 

Warhol at NGA

Our visit to the National Gallery of Art, while not specifically about accessibility, just reinforced the need for accessible collections. If these museums, particularly our national museums, are truly for us, then we should all get to experience Picasso, Matisse, and Warhol.