Process Evaluation: Affiliate Involvement in Places of Invention Exhibition

April 7th, 2014 | EVALUATION

The Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History (NMAH) contracted Randi Korn & Associates, Inc. (RK&A) to conduct a process evaluation for Smithsonian Affiliates’ involvement in Places of Invention (POI), an exhibition funded by the National Science Foundation. Affiliates are working with community partners to create digital content for the Interactive Map featured in the exhibition, and using POI core concepts to create local programming in conjunction with the exhibition. The study sought to understand the successes and challenges that each Affiliate team experienced internally and with the Lemelson Center and project consultant. How did we approach this study? RK&A conducted in-depth, open-ended telephone interviews with project stakeholders, including Affiliate staff and community partners working on five different Affiliate projects, two Smithsonian Affiliations staff, and the Project Consultant. Lemelson staff provided RK&A staff with contact information for potential interviewees, and RK&A staff contacted interviewees via email to set up a mutually agreeable time for the telephone interview. Interviews were audio recorded with participants’ consent and transcribed to facilitate analysis. What did we learn? The majority of project partners have had similar experiences thus far. These partners said the greatest strength of their partnership is that they engage with communities by sharing relevant and interesting stories of invention. Other strengths include the opportunity to partner with the Smithsonian Institution and the passion the Affiliate museums and individual staff members bring to the project. Interviewees also perceived the resources and personnel available from the Smithsonian Institution and the Lemelson Center as a significant strength. Two types of challenges were mentioned: those internal to the partners and their individual organizations and those involving collaboration with the Smithsonian and the Lemelson Center. Internal challenges, such as lack of time and staff turnover, were common problems. While open communication was noted as a strength, one-third of interviewees said the project expectations were unclear. One set of project partners had a different experience due to staff turnover at the Affiliate museum and the changing role of the original community partner. What are the implications of the findings? This study highlights the positive experiences museums can have when they work with community partners while emphasizing the importance of open communication and clear guidelines in such projects. Not only did Lemelson Center staff learn the successes and challenges of the current content-development process, they also learned strategies for how Smithsonian Affiliates can best recruit and work with community partners. While allowing the Affiliate institutions the freedom to tailor the project to their unique community, the Lemelson Center also recognized the importance of creating a uniform process which partner organizations can follow.



Team Members

Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, Contributor
Randi Korn, Evaluator, Randi Korn & Associates, Inc.
Emily Skidmore, Evaluator, Randi Korn & Associates, Inc.
Amanda Krantz, Evaluator, Randi Korn & Associates, Inc.
Emily Craig, Evaluator, Randi Korn & Associates, Inc.


Funding Source: NSF
Funding Program: ISE/AISL


Audience: Educators | Teachers | Evaluators
Discipline: History | policy | law
Resource Type: Evaluation Reports
Environment Type: Exhibitions | Games | Simulations | Interactives | Media and Technology | Museum and Science Center Exhibits