Summative Evaluation of Hot Pink Flamingos: Stories of Hope in a Changing Sea

January 1st, 2011 | EVALUATION

Monterey Bay Aquarium (MBA) contracted Randi Korn & Associates, Inc. (RK&A) to evaluate Hot Pink Flamingos: Stories of Hope in a Changing Sea, a special exhibition that, according to MBA, explores how climate change is affecting ocean life and recommends small changes we all can make to help the oceans as well as big changes we can make together to solve the climate crisis. A summative evaluation explored how well MBA achieved its goals for the exhibition and identified other significant findings that may affect future projects. This evaluation combined methodologies to understand how visitors engaged with and interpreted the content presented in Hot Pink Flamingos. Timing and tracking observations monitored how long visitors spent in the exhibition and documented how visitors interacted with specific exhibition components. In-depth interviews assessed visitors' responses to the exhibition, including how visitors reacted to the topic of climate change. RK&A found that the exhibition successfully conveyed the general topic of climate change to visitors. However, the exhibition was less effective at communicating more specific messages, such as the link between climate change and the oceans. For example, attendance and time spent at exhibits that showed an explicit connection between climate change and the oceans was moderate. The overall theme of the exhibition provoked a range of responses; some visitors felt that the exhibition was too political and preachy, while others found the message to be inspiring, or even a call to action. Additionally, although the exhibition effectively communicated suggestions about specific actions visitors can take to address climate change, visitors' responses about the appropriateness of MBA advocating these changes were often mixed. Findings suggest that these responses are due in part to the high variability in visitors' preconceptions about and relationships to climate change. Although previous studies indicate that the public's general knowledge about climate change is low, many visitors felt that they did not come away from the exhibition with any new information about climate change. This suggests that visitors' experiences in the exhibition may be integrally linked with their preconceptions about the presented topic. Climate change is a difficult topic to tackle because of people's erroneous associations about climate change. Not only is it inherently linked to thoughts about death and destruction, it is also a topic that is currently highly visible and considered political. For these reasons, visitors' feelings about climate change seem to be deeply embedded, and thus, they affect how visitors respond to a climate change exhibition. As the study found, some of visitors' previous thoughts and feelings about climate change affected the hopeful message that MBA intended to convey. To address these issues, exhibition developers may need to be extremely explicit about their intentions and reiterate the big idea in many places. They may want to consider pairing a negative aspect of climate change with a positive solution within the same viewing space, especially at interactives, live-animal displays, videos and motion-based exhibits, which attract a large proportion of visitors.



Team Members

Randi Korn & Associates, Inc., Evaluator, Randi Korn & Associates, Inc.
Monterey Bay Aquarium, Contributor


Audience: Evaluators | General Public | Museum | ISE Professionals
Discipline: Climate | Ecology | forestry | agriculture | Education and learning science | Life science
Resource Type: Evaluation Reports | Summative
Environment Type: Aquarium and Zoo Exhibits | Exhibitions