Infectious Disease Exhibition: Examining Guided and Unguided Use of an Exhibition Case

December 29th, 2006 | EVALUATION

In 2006, the Science Museum of Minnesota carried out a formative evaluation of the traveling exhibition, Disease Detectives. Disease Detectives features an immersive environment where visitors investigate a case by meeting a patient (an interactive mannequin), interpreting lab tests, and exploring specific environments to learn more about disease transmission and prevention. Each case highlights a different mode of disease transmission and the relevant illnesses. The purpose of this evaluation was to look at the usability and learning outcomes of one of the three proposed scenarios for the exhibition. The scenario prototyped was the Food and Waterborne Disease Case. The evaluation also compared the experiences and outcomes of visitors who went through the scenario in the intended order to those who went through in some other order. The reason for this comparison was to see if visitors need to be guided through the exhibition in order to understand the main messages of the exhibit, or if they could go through unguided, in any order, and still learn the intended information. Data was collected from 30 guided and 37 unguided visitors. Guided visitors were led through the exhibit in the intended order, while unguided visitors explored the exhibition in whatever order suited them. Key Findings: 1. Observations of unguided visitors revealed that most visitors (81%) did not go through the exhibition in the intended order. 2. The order of viewing the exhibition did not appear to impact the ability of visitors to grasp at least one of the exhibition's or case's main messages. Visitors who traveled through the exhibition in an order other than the intended were actually more likely than guided visitors to name at least one of the main messages of the exhibition or case (93% unguided other order, 76% guided). The appendix of this report includes a sample data collection instrument (observation and interview protocol) used in the study.


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Team Members

Amy Grack Nelson, Evaluator, Science Museum of Minnesota
Beth Janetski, Evaluator, Science Museum of Minnesota


Funding Source: NIH
Award Number: R25RR020439


Audience: Evaluators | General Public | Museum | ISE Professionals
Discipline: Education and learning science | Health and medicine | Life science
Resource Type: Evaluation Reports | Formative | Interview Protocol | Observation Protocol | Research and Evaluation Instruments
Environment Type: Exhibitions | Museum and Science Center Exhibits