Wild About Otters Summative Evaluation

May 24th, 2013 | EVALUATION

During 2007, the Exhibits Department conducted a summative evaluation of Wild About Otters to document visitors' interest in and their responses to this temporary exhibition. This study was conducted in three parts to examine visitors' behaviors and responses to aspects of the exhibition, including conservation content, emotional reactions and bilingual graphic panels. Research questions 1. How are visitors using the exhibition? Which exhibits are they attending to and for how long? 2. What did visitors think Wild About Otters was about? 3. What conservation content did visitors remember immediately after exiting Wild About Otters and where in the exhibition did they remember seeing the information? 4. What were visitors' emotional responses to Wild About Otters? 5. How are visitors who speak Spanish using the bilingual graphic panels? 6. How much information do visitors who speak Spanish prefer to have translated on a graphic panel and why? Methods Multiple research methods were used to evaluate Wild About Otters, including: timing and tracking, exhibition exit interviews, bilingual label interviews. Key Findings On average, visitors spent 13 minutes in Wild About Otters and attended to 26% of the exhibits. While visitors moved through the exhibition at a slower rate than previous temporary exhibitions at the Aquarium, they attended to a smaller proportion of exhibits when compared to other temporary exhibitions of recent past. The three otter enclosures were visited by the largest majority of visitors 92% at the African otter family enclosure, 82% at the African otter pair enclosure and 79% at the Asian otter enclosure. In addition to the otters, other animal tanks the vine snakes and Asian river planted tank exhibits were well attended (49% and 45%, respectively). The longest average stay times also occurred at the three otter enclosures visitors spent nearly four minutes to two and one-half minutes at the otter enclosures. However, these times differed greatly depending on the activity of the otters if the otters were actively moving around, visitors stayed nearly five minutes. If the otters were asleep, visitors stayed just over one minute. When visitors were asked what they thought Wild About Otters was about, their responses fell into two groups. The first group (58%) focused on the exhibition of otters, including their lifestyle and characteristics. The second group (41%) focused on otter conservation and the preservation of their ecosystems, including the importance (and limited supply) of fresh water. When asked immediately after exiting the exhibition, a majority of visitors (80%) said they remembered seeing or hearing something about conservation in the exhibition. Ninety percent of these visitors cited specific information, and more than half of this group cited messages in which people played a role, such as water conservation, human impacts on ecosystems and the connections between human and otter ecosystems. The proportion of visitors who remembered conservation content and remembered specific messages in Wild About Otters was greater than in Ocean's Edge, Sharks: Myth and Mystery and Jellies: Living Art. To understand visitors' emotional experience in Wild About Otters, researchers asked visitors to describe a special moment they may have had as they were going through the exhibition. A majority of visitors (72%) mentioned their emotional connection to the otters and other animals on exhibit. When describing their experience, visitors used the word cute, usually to describe the otters, but many visitors also used the words like, love, fun and enjoy when describing their experience. Exploring visitors' emotions, attitudes and feelings are a valuable step to understanding how to effectively communicate content. Social psychology research suggests that museum visitors' positive moods lead to increased attention and better receptivity of cognitive concepts, which helps change attitudes during the communication of information. Also, the emotional nature of learning cognitive concepts determines what visitors repeat, share, reflect on and ultimately remember (or choose not to remember) about their museum experience. During visits to zoos and aquariums, visitors' positive emotional response to animals is an important aspect in fostering positive attitudes toward the conservation of those animals and their habitats. Also, when emotions and cognitive knowledge work in concert, they are a strong predictor of behavior. In other words, when visitors feel a positive emotional connection to an animal and know something about that animal, they may want to take action on the animal's behalf. Another aspect of learning is the connection to a specific physical context, like a classroom, a library or the Aquarium. A challenge many learners face is the ability to take knowledge gained in one context and transfer it to another for example, learning about tide pool conservation behavior at the Aquarium and applying those concepts when visiting an actual tide pool. When learners transfer their knowledge from one context to another, the result is greater subsequent learning. When visitors described their emotional experiences in Wild About Otters, researchers divided those experiences into two categories. One group of visitors (69%) expressed a direct emotional connection with the exhibition, usually to the animals, describing their emotional experience within the context of the Aquarium. The second group of visitors (26%) described their emotional experience in terms of a connection between the exhibition and their personal lives. When this group made a connection with the exhibition and their personal lives, they were transferring their positive emotional experience from one context (inside the exhibit) to another (outside the Aquarium). This phenomenon, when combined with visitors' positive emotional experience, is a powerful mechanism to better communicate exhibition content, especially conservation content. Nearly three-quarters (74%) of visitors who speak Spanish, regardless of amount of Spanish spoken at home, read a graphic panel associated with interactive exhibits in Wild About Otters. Of these visitors, the majority read at least part of the Spanish language featured on the graphic panel with over half reading only the Spanish language parts of the panel. Overall, the Spanish language text was read far more frequently than the English text. The vast majority (86%) of visitors who speak Spanish, regardless of amount of Spanish spoken at home, preferred the largest amount of Spanish translation, when presented with three options. This group of visitors said that more translation provided more complete information and was easier to understand. By translating the entire graphic panel into Spanish, visitors who speak Spanish thought the Aquarium could better communicate content, and they would be able to learn more information. The appendix of this report includes the interview protocols used in the study.



Team Members

Jon Deuel, Evaluator, Monterey Bay Aquarium
Jaci Tomulonis, Evaluator, Monterey Bay Aquarium


Access and Inclusion: English Language Learners | Ethnic | Racial | Hispanic | Latinx Communities
Audience: Adults | Evaluators | General Public | Museum | ISE Professionals
Discipline: Ecology | forestry | agriculture | Education and learning science | Life science
Resource Type: Evaluation Reports | Interview Protocol | Research and Evaluation Instruments | Summative
Environment Type: Aquarium and Zoo Exhibits | Exhibitions