Visitor Studies Association announces its call for 2019 session and workshop proposals

VSA 2017conference

November 2nd, 2018

The story of the field of visitor studies is long and somewhat winding—and it continues to grow and evolve. Visitor studies professionals are focused on all facets of the visitor experience in museums, zoos, nature centers, visitor centers, historic sites, parks and other informal learning settings. They are committed to understanding and enhancing visitor experiences in informal learning settings through research, evaluation, and dialogue.

Over the years, visitor studies professionals have built a breadth and depth of knowledge around visitors and their experiences, and although our work is generally grounded in the social sciences, we have sought to find meaning in a variety of ways and though a wide range of approaches.

How do we know what we know?

From research to evaluation, to facilitation and everything in between, we are tasked with answering questions that are sometimes big and sometimes small. The epistemologies—theories of how we know, and what counts as evidence—that guide us in this work may inform specific institutional strategies, and they may also inspire and inform our field and beyond.

But how do we know what questions to explore, or what questions are worth exploring? Who is responsible for defining and exploring these questions? And how do the ways we each make sense of the world around us shape those decisions?

visaWe need your expertise!

The Visitor Studies Association (VSA) is currently requesting both session proposals and workshop proposals for our 2019 annual conference, under the theme “Ways of Knowing”. This year’s conference will be held  July 10 – 13, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. The deadline for submissions is Wednesday, December 5, 2018.

Session Proposals

For this year’s conference, we invite attendees to consider how ways of knowing are expressed in our practice. Some questions we think this conference theme will allow speakers and presenters to address include the following:

  • What counts as research, evaluation, or evaluative thinking? What kinds of professional roles and stakeholder relationships do we expect or assume when our work carries those labels? In what ways do we perpetuate bias through the ways we describe our work?
  • How might evaluators and non-evaluator museum practitioners see visitor studies differently, and what can we learn from experiential knowledge that may or may not include systematic investigation?
  • How can we better respect and value ways of knowing that differ from dominant cultural lenses, especially when dominant lenses may include the disciplinary traditions that underpin visitor studies? How can the specific approaches of visitor studies be leveraged in support of greater equity among stakeholders?
  • And more! You can find the full call for session proposals here.

Workshop Proposals

We encourage workshop proposals that explore different facets of building the capacity of professionals in the visitor studies field, specifically in relation to the VSA Professional Competencies and the 2019 theme. We try to balance more foundational workshops for emerging evaluators with workshops to develop new skills for established professionals. Past participants have shown interest in:

  • Audience or program specific methods
  • Data analysis and statistics
  • Data visualization
  • Current research in formal/informal learning
  • Equity, diversity, and inclusion
  • And more! You can find the full call for workshop proposals here.

Questions? Email the Visitor Studies Association Office at