International Case Studies

Friday, September 15


Marge Ainsley, Emma Parson (UK) – “Towards an audience focus: how to use insight from audience research to inform decision-making in museums”


It is no longer acceptable to ‘guess’ the wants and needs of visitors. To be relevant and diversify audiences, museums must proactively seek to understand barriers and drivers through front-end, formative and summative research. In the UK, audience research is at the heart of audience development. Indeed, major funders like Arts Council England and the Heritage Lottery Fund expect it to fundamentally guide museums’ strategic planning processes and underpin change management.
Delivered by UK-based museum consultants Emma Parsons and Marge Ainsley, this fast-paced case study will draw on their practical experience of research, evaluation and audience development over the last 15 years. Including the Silverstone Heritage Experience – recently successful in securing over £9 million of Heritage Lottery funding and located at the world-famous racing circuit; The Wordsworth Trust, home of Dove Cottage in the Lake District; and silk-road storytellers Macclesfield Museums Trust, the duo will share their top tips of how insight can be used to inform decision-making. Marge and Emma will prove how specialist research skills can be developed and embedded ‘in-house’, and will share their innovative research methods toolkit, including prototyping. They will also help delegates avoid typical pitfalls by describing the challenges of audience research: what hasn’t worked and why. Whether you’re evaluating or planning your programme, this session will both inspire and inform.

Emma has worked as a consultant since leaving Imperial War Museum North in 2007 where she was Head of Marketing & PR for 6 years. Emma specialises in audience development and engagement, as well as strategic planning and evaluation. She brings a record of successful consultancy across the sector in audience development, business planning, strategic thinking, consultation and evaluation, and project management. Emma was also a Co-Director of Loud in Libraries CIC from 2013 to 2015. The company delivers audience development & engagement programmes for libraries, changing perceptions and diversifying users, and has won awards for innovation. She was a mentor and expert advisor for the Heritage Lottery Fund for 4 years and works with many HLF grant applicants. Emma’s previous clients include: Manchester Jewish Museum, Archives+ (Manchester City Council), Bolton Museum Service, The Wordsworth Trust, Maclaurin Gallery in Ayr, Curious Minds, Staffordshire Heritage & Archives Service, Pennine Lancashire Museums, Thackray Medical Museum, Museum of Science & Industry, Cumbria Museums Partnership, Arts Council England and The National Archives.

Marge is a well-respected cultural consultant and was previously voted one of the 50 best freelancers in the UK by marketing industry magazine, The Drum. She has worked in the sector for 15 years, launching her freelance business in 2008 which supports organisations in audience development, marketing, research and evaluation. Marge is a regular contributor to the Pro-Copywriters’ Network and takes on various copywriting contracts including interpretation, advocacy and PR projects. A member of the International Association of Facilitators and a trained Group Facilitator, she leads workshops, meeting and seminars for clients to ensure they reach their goals and achieve consensus. Her previous clients include: Manchester Museum, Creative People & Places (LeftCoast), London Transport Museum, National Museums Liverpool, Canal & Rivers Trust (HLF Samuel Oldknow), The Atkinson, Tottenham Hotspur FC (Museum). People’s History Museum, Dales Countryside Museum, Cumbria Tourism, John Rylands Library, Bradford Industrial Museum, Manchester Art Gallery, Children & the Arts and Macclesfield Silk Museum Trust.

Luisa Masserani (BRA), How a study with low income kid visitors to a hands-on exhibition in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) can help training explainers

In Brazil, since 1990s, many hands-on science centers have been created. However, there is still a reduced number of visitor studies – and even less for children, which represent a significant part of the audiences of the museums in the region. Furthermore, the visit to hands-on science centers is hardly based in the mediation carried out by explainers. This study is the result of a partnership between the Museum of Life (in Rio de Janeiro) and the Oregon State University (US) and aimed to observe and analyze the behavior children and their peers (other children) express during their interactions in exhibits of a hands-on science exhibition called “Adventures through the human body”. The exhibition aims to evoke the curiosity of 5 to 8 years old children toward the human body. In this study, we looked at the level of engagement children and their peers (other kids) have when they visit a hands-on exhibition and to what extent do explainers influence the level of engagement of children. The results are helping us to (re)design strategies for training explainers in a science center, aiming to improve the experience of visiting a science exhibition.


Luisa Massarani has a background in Communication, with a master in Science Information (1998) and a PhD in Biochemistry (2001), both of them at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, and a post-doctorate in Science and Technology Studies, at the University College London and at the Free-Choice Learning Lab of the Oregon State University (US). She works on research, teaching and practice in Public Communication for Science and Technology, since 1987. She works at the Museum of Life (, a hands on science museum in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) linked to the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz), a key health research institution in Latin America linked to the Brazilian Ministry of Health. She was the director of the Museum of Life for four years (2009-2013). During that time she was able to increase the number of visitors by 30% and triplicated the number of visitors of short term and itinerant exhibitions. Since 2003, she is the Latin American coordinator of SciDev.Net (, a gateway based in London aimed at science and development in developing countries. She is Honorary Research Associate do Department of Science and Technology Studies da University College London. She is a member of the scientific committee of the PCST Network, the international network for Public Communication for Science and Technology.


Luise Reitstätter (AT), Easy-to-read. Hard to Follow?

In 2016, the Salzburg Museum introduced a novelty within Austria’s museum landscape. It was among the first to equally integrate easy-to-read text panels in the exhibition rooms. The critic’s and visitor’s reactions were split, ranging from people who declared it a powerful innovation for an inclusive museum to others that sniffed at the strongly simplified “stupid” text versions. Based on this ambivalent reactions, the project “Say it Simple. Say it Loud” – a cooperation between Salzburg Museum and the University of Salzburg – took a two-fold approach to explore this strong gesture of visitor-orientation. First, a sociological analysis through hermeneutic discourse analysis, participant observation and a visitor survey: How do people use and value these easy-to-read texts in the exhibition space? Second, a specifically developed German language course within the special exhibition “Tell me Salzburg”. The course, offered to people who newly arrived in town, makes use of the easy-to-read texts at the level A2 and the exhibition itself. Being visitor-oriented not only towards the core cultural audience but towards people with different cultural backgrounds, the museum becomes a highly contested site – and a much more complex work place. This lecture is a combination of different voices within this symbolic battlefield offering insights into the work process and the evaluation results with statements from museum workers, language teachers, course participants as well as visitors. The case study consequently shows the difficulties of hegemonic power structures as well as the potentials of inclusive museum strategies and new intercultural readings.


Luise Reitstätter is a cultural scientist with a doctorate in Sociology and Cultural Studies. Her main research interests are contemporary art and social matters, museology and exhibition studies, as well as qualitative methods in empirical research. Having worked in the international art field for prominent institutions such as documenta 12 or the Austrian Pavilion at the Venice Biennial 2008 and 2008, she gradually shifted her work focus to the academic field maintaining a strong practice orientation. Recent collaborative projects include the Autumn School “Approaching the 3S. The Spatial, the Social, and the Sensorium”; the research and development project “personal.curator” on technology assisted art education; and the research and education project “Say it Simple. Say it Loud. Easy-to-Read Language as a Key to the Museum.” She also published a monograph on the exhibition as a potential sphere of action (“Die Ausstellung verhandeln”, transcript 2015).

Charlie Trautmann (US), Grow your museum’s impact by (really) listening to your audience

In 2008, the Sciencenter in Ithaca, New York USA began a multi-year effort to better serve its audience. The process began unexpectedly when a routine planning retreat of board and staff identified an acute (and unanticipated) need to clarify the museum’s audience and better understand how to serve it.
As a result, the museum undertook an 18-month period of community listening research that included hundreds of people in interviews and focus groups. Questioners asked about “what kind of community do you want to live in?”; “how might that be different from the way things are now?”; and “what would it take to make the kinds of changes needed?”
Ironically, “more science education” was never mentioned. Instead, a common thread was the desire to “build a community where every child could reach their potential.” In addition to this aspirational goal, the listening process also led to an understanding of the museum’s core audience as being children 0-14.
Building on these two findings, the museum developed an education framework, focusing on important life skills that would help all children reach their potential using science as the learning platform. The framework was summarized as the vision of “a community where every young person is empowered to use science in shaping a better future: for themselves, their community, and the world they will soon inherit.”
The framework identifies three developmental periods and goals for each:
– Age Name Educational goals – using science as the platform
– 0-5 Early Explorers Curiosity, Creativity
– 5-11 Young Scientists Confidence, Collaboration
– 11-14 Future Science Leaders Communication, Critical Thinking, Leadership
The Sciencenter followed up with a plan for new exhibits, educational programs, training of floor staff, a targeted fundraising campaign. The work has led to a 10% growth in attendance in the past three years, consistently high monthly customer service ratings, and frequent praise from community and governmental leaders.


Charlie Trautmann is Director Emeritus of the Sciencenter, a hands-on science museum in Ithaca, NY, USA, located about 350 km northwest of New York City. Charlie served 26 years as Executive Director through 2017 and was responsible for strategic vision, organizational leadership, and resource development. He is also an adjunct professor of Civil & Environmental Engineering at nearby Cornell University.
Charlie’s work has centered on developing the most effective ways to connect youth with science, with the goal of promoting civic science literacy and empowering youth to create a better future for themselves, their community, and the world they will soon inherit. His efforts have involved dozens of exhibitions, programs, and collaborations, along with large-scale projects involving thousands of volunteers.
He currently serves on the board of the Association of Children’s Museums and has served on the board of the Association of Science-Technology Centers, both based in Washington, DC. He also serves on many local educational, professional, and civic boards. Under his leadership, the Sciencenter has received the prestigious international Roy L. Shafer Leading Edge Award for Innovative Business Practices three times in the past decade and is the only museum to have received this award more than once.
Charlie has received three Alexander von Humboldt fellowships from Germany and is currently on sabbatical at the Rachel Carson Center for Society and Environment in Munich, studying how museums can make best educational use of the first five years of life, particularly in connecting children to the environment.
Charlie presents regularly at museum conferences and has published over 100 articles in the fields of education, non-profit management, and engineering. He holds a BA degree in physics from Amherst College, MS degrees in geology and engineering from Stanford University, and a PhD in engineering from Cornell University. His wife Nancy is Director of Education at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.


Saturday, September 16


Anna Elffers, Carlijn Diesfeldt (NL), Public Works Utrecht

Public Works is a public art project in and around Utrecht Central Station. Point of departure
is the firm belief that art can play a crucial role in this place of transition, as it invites the
public to look differently at their surroundings. The project (2016) builds on the large-scale
public art exhibition Call of the Mall (2013) that took place in the same area. In that project
audience research was important, not in its traditional use as a summative evaluation, but as
a tool to evaluate, discuss and adjust the chosen (artistic) approach during the project.
Research took place at different moments, providing food for ample internal discussion
about the desired impact and target groups. A conclusion was that the format of the
exhibition and the labelling of the works as ‘art’ was not a prerequisite for audience impact.
As a consequence the objective to try to make audiences experience the works as part of an
exhibition was left behind in the follow-up project Public Works. In not presenting the works
as an art exhibition anymore, the big question was whether or not it would be possible to –
without much communication and interpretation- let the works ‘make’ their own audience
out of those quickly moving passers-by. The research method was also further developed, in
introducing a more covert method we called ‘listening research’ to be able to find the answer
to this big question. The methodology, the results and how they informed decision-making
will be shared in this presentation.


Anna Elffers (1975) studied Cultural Sociology at the University of Amsterdam and graduated
in 1999. She continued her studies in San Francisco where she received a Graduate
Certificate in Arts Administration. Since 2000 she works in the field of arts and culture. Until
2006 she worked as an assistant to audience researcher Letty Ranshuysen and as a
marketer, market researcher and educator in different cultural organizations. Since 2007 she
works as a lecturer in Arts & Audiences at Maastricht University and as a freelance audience
researcher and advisor for different cultural organizations in the Netherlands, like museums,
orchestras, theatres, arts councils and foundations and municipalities.

Carlijn Diesfeldt (1978) studied Arts & Sciences at Maastricht University and has been
organising art projects in the public domain since 2003. Working as a curator she is
specialised in developing ways to present contemporary art in diverse social and urban
contexts such as a suburb (Beyond Leidsche Rijn 2004-2009), a country side (Land Art
Contemporary 2011), a shopping mall (Call of the Mall 2013), a station area (Public Works
2016) and a science park (Zero Footprint Campus 2017). Not only do the art works relate to
the specific public domain, they are also in dialogue with the specific audiences using these
spaces. The art creates impact by interacting with the location and the people.

Vera Almanritter (GER), Attracting diverse audiences

It was barely a decade ago that cultural management in Germany recognized migrants and their
descendants as an important audience segment in the strategic planning of cultural institutions. Since then, empirical audience research has focused on this issue. However, it is clear that many cultural institutions are still facing difficulties in dealing with the subject practically.
Two fundamentally different approaches to this topic can be identified in the framework of empirical audience research: a focus on social milieus within the so-called `population with a migration background´and a focus on their different national or ethnic roots. The aim of the authors dissertation was to discover if either information about milieu affiliation or origin is more important for successfully developing audience development strategies aiming at the population with migration background.
The empirical survey conducted by the author was based on a milieu study by the market research company SINUS that explained the way of living of people with migration background. In the framework of the authors survey people belonging to a specific migrant-milieu (`intellectualcosmopolitan milieu´, which is most attracted by cultural offerings) were intensively interviewed. A total of 54 qualitative face-to-face interviews with people with migration background originating from countries of the former Soviet Union and Turkey were conducted. The participants were questioned about their perception of the thematic field, their individual consuming behavior concerning cultural offerings and indications for specific visiting barriers for the other milieus. The findings can be used to develop a guideline for cultural sectors that provides specific suggestions for successful intercultural audience development strategies.


Vera Allmanritter received her Master in Arts and Media Administration at the Free University of
Berlin. Since 2015 she has been research fellow at the Department of Cultural Policy at the University of Hildesheim. In 2016 she was research fellow at the Jewish Museum Berlin. Between 2009-2010 she was coordinator of the Center for Audience Development at the Free University of Berlin. Vera has also been working as an independent Cultural Manager since 2007. She is recognized for her research, publications and teaching in the fields of Management, Cultural Marketing, Visitor Research, Audience Development, and Empirical Research methods. She holds lectures on these subject areas at various universities and has authored numerous publications. In spring 2017 her doctor thesis was published (title: “Audience development in a migration society”).


Ryan Auster (US),  Collaboration for Ongoing Visitor Experience Studies (COVES)

The Collaboration for Ongoing Visitor Experience Studies unites science centers in a common effort to better understand visitors’ experiences within and across institutions.
Science centers want to understand their visitors – who visits, why, what they do, etc. – but they also have larger questions: “How do we compare to others?” While several institutions had previously been studying their visitors’ experiences individually, the infrastructure to support collaboration across science museums had been lacking. COVES now provides a system to connect institutions in collecting comparable data while offering flexible solutions for answering questions unique to each institution. We like to say that COVES is “by museums, for museums,” because the governance group is composed of individuals spread across several science centers in varying roles, and because we resist the notion that an external consulting firm can do a better job understanding our visitors than we can.
We currently have 19 institutions participating in 16 states, representing organizations that attract fewer than 10,000 visitors a year and those that draw well over a million a year. One of our primary goals is to offer evaluation capacity building opportunities to smaller institutions with limited experience conducting visitor research by leveraging capacity where it currently exists. We’ve developed unique reporting strategies to provide participants with data that can truly be used to inform institutional decision-making, as well as better inform the field.
COVES is growing: our goal is to evolve into a collaboration funded by its participants and capable of supporting any/all interested science centers.


Ryan Auster is a Senior Research & Evaluation Associate for the Museum of Science in Boston, MA, United States. Specializing in the design and execution of quantitative research studies, he is primarily responsible for developing instruments, conducting statistical analyses, and producing reports for technical and non-technical audiences alike. Currently, Ryan is most heavily involved in the secondary analysis of data dealing with middle school interest in science, evaluating a new curriculum for computational thinking in early grades, and serves as Principal Investigator of the IMLS-funded Collaboration for Ongoing Visitor Experience Studies.

Ryan holds a bachelor’s degree in Economics from Davidson College, NC, a master’s of Education from National-Louis University of Chicago, and is currently completing his doctoral degree in Measurement, Evaluation, Statistics, and Assessment at Boston College. Prior to the Museum of Science, Ryan was a Teaching Fellow at Boston College and at Research Assistant at the TIMSS & PIRLS International Study Center. When not thinking about statistics, Ryan can usually be found on a bicycle.


Dimitra Christidou (NOR), Visitracker: A Tool for Visitor Studies

Institutional change takes time. Seven years ago, during the early stages of the collaboration between the Department of Education, University of Oslo and the National Museum also in Oslo, Norway, views on the value of audience development among the museum staff members were conflicted and underdeveloped. Throughout our ongoing collaboration and exchange of knowledge and practices, these views have significantly changed.
Among the most significant developments during our partnership has been the design of Visitracker, a tablet-based research tool which bridges research with practice. Visitracker is used to conduct surveys in the form of questionnaires, and track and analyze real time observations of individuals and groups in a museum gallery. Visitracker is the result of discussions between the museum and the researchers, a tool created to address the needs of the museum team informed by the current developments in the museum research. As such, the research team holds intensive discussions with the museum partners and the programmers at the University of Oslo which inform the development of new features for Visitracker, complementing the existing methods for data collection.
Apart from assisting in the design of Visitracker and conducting regular and robust visitor studies, the National Museum leads the sharing of practices and knowledge with a large network of museums in Norway. This has a tremendous potential impact on the development of audience development in the cultural sector in Norway.


Dimitra Christidou is a postdoctoral fellow at the Department of Education, University of Oslo. Dimitra is a member of the project ‘Cultural heritage mediascapes: Innovation in knowledge and mediation practices’ led by Palmyre Pierroux and funded by the Norwegian Research Council. In collaboration with the National Museum, Dimitra leads the Visitor Research group, which explores the relationship between museum spaces, collections and visitors, and designs methods and tools to conduct visitor studies.
Dimitra holds a PhD in Museum Studies from the University College of London, funded by the Greek State Scholarships Foundation (I.K.Y.). After receiving her PhD, Dimitra worked as a researcher and project manager at the Nordic Centre of Heritage Learning and Creativity (NCK), a Nordic Baltic center for learning through cultural heritage, located in Östersund, Sweden. She has also working experience as a museum educator and museum evaluator both in Greece and in the UK.