“Evaluating New England Aquarium’s New Strategy for Visitor Engagement: Interpreting Our Mission for a Changing World”

November 19th, 2014 | EVALUATION

"In the past several years, New England Aquarium (NEAq) renewed all exhibits, built new additions, and made substantive efforts to restructure its interpretation strategies to transform the visitor experience. With support from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) grant #MA-06-12-0143-12, the Aquarium embarked on A New Strategy for Visitor Engagement: Interpreting our Mission for a Changing World. From fall 2012 through summer 2014, NEAq developed, implemented, and evaluated a comprehensive approach to increasing the capacity of front-line staff and interpreters to engage with visitors and interpret ocean health according to the Aquarium’s mission: [to combine] education, entertainment, and action to address the most challenging problems facing the oceans. To this end, NEAq conducted a baseline survey about visitor satisfaction; performed an inventory of exhibits and the interpretive opportunities offered; developed a training plan based on these findings; then implemented the first wave of training and follow-up practice for front-line staff, their supervisors, and interpretive staff; and pioneered a new interpretive Toolkit—a growing compilation of resources for interpretation. In spring 2014, New Knowledge Organization Ltd. (NewKnowledge) was commissioned to conduct an independent summative evaluation of project impacts. The evaluation sought to assess the outcomes achieved from the grant-funded effort and to make recommendations that can support the organization as it continues to transform its practices and pedagogical approaches to visitor experiences. The intended outcomes were to: 1. Develop an interpretive approach and training model that is responsive to the Aquarium’s audiences and adaptable to new exhibits; 2. Increase visitor satisfaction through personal and positive engagement with interpreters; and 3. Increase integration of the Aquarium’s mission into the visitor experience. The primary audience for the project was the more than 400 staff and volunteers, over 20,000 member households, and the 1.3 million annual visitors they interact with each year. To understand the outcomes, NewKnowledge assessed the organizational learning and experiential learning impacts of the project. "



Team Members

New England Aquarium, Contributor
John Fraser, Evaluator, New Knowledge Organization Ltd.


Funding Source: IMLS


Audience: Evaluators | General Public | Museum | ISE Professionals
Discipline: Ecology | forestry | agriculture | Education and learning science | Nature of science | Social science and psychology
Resource Type: Evaluation Reports | Summative
Environment Type: Aquarium and Zoo Exhibits | Aquarium and Zoo Programs | Exhibitions | Professional Development | Conferences | Networks | Public Programs