Thursday, March 27, 2014

Visitor Research and Canadian Museums

The March/April issue of Muse included the article "A Case For Visitor Research in Canadian Art Museums" by Katherine Dennis.  The piece looked at the current state of visitor research and the need to articulate the public value of museums to stakeholders and community members. 

There are no national standards for visitors research and there tends to be little consistency between institutional practices.  Many visitor research projects are done as a one off and "most museums seldom go beyond measuring attendance and membership numbers.  Some use these figures as a proxy for quality -- assuming more is better....these relatively simple metrics convey little about the audience's experience or the museum's value to an individual or the community."

Visitor stats aren't a bad thing.  They tend to be the easiest to generate and do tell you something about your museum.  Additionally board members and other stakeholders often like to know about visitor numbers and correlate increased visitors with success.  However, the article is right in it's assertion that stats relating to the number of visitors can't tell you about experience or effectiveness of programming.

Dennis argues that museums need to develop systematic research programs which can generate data to be used in program development, funding applications, and to highlight the importance and relevancy of museum programming.  But a lot of organizations are lacking to tools and knowledge required to develop metrics and effective visitor research programs.  Dennis is currently working with the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies to develop a comprehensive visitor research program.  It will be interesting to see the results of this initiative and if other institutions can use it as a model. 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Historical Reminicents: 400 Posts Later

This is the 400th post I've written on Historical Reminiscents since I started this blog back in September 2008.  I began this blog for a digital history class I was taking as part of Western University's Public History MA program.  I had no idea that the blog would be so long lasting or prolific.

Over the years I've been asked numerous times what I get out of blogging here and at  Some of the top reasons I've continued to blog are: the blog format allows less formal writing that traditional academic scholarship, blogging combined with other social media has connected me to colleagues that I otherwise would have no interaction with, and lastly (and perhaps most importantly) I enjoy it.

Looking back here are some of the most read posts from the last six years:

Monday, March 10, 2014

Digital Libraries and National Digitization Programmes: How Does Canada Compare?

My most recent post, Digital Libraries and National Digitization Programmes, can be seen over on  The post looks at digitization initiatives in the United States, Norway, and the United Kingdom in comparison to recent efforts by Library and Archives Canada to begin a large scale digitization project.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Museum Teaching Strategies and Inquiry Based Learning

I'm currently participating in a MOOC offered by the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) on art based instruction, museum teaching strategies and inquiry teaching.  Information on the course, "Art and Inquiry: Museum Teaching Strategies For Your Classroom," is available here.

The course material combines readings, video lectures, and discussion groups.  The focus is on teaching techniques/resources and is based on MoMA's successful education program.  I signed up for this free course based on a desire to gain another perspective on educational programming.  In 2013 over 1300 people participated in educational programming at my work and a large number of those participants were elementary and secondary school students.  I'm always looking for different ways to engage students in the history of residential schools, visiting art exhibitions, and history more broadly.

The first week's content focused on the basics of inquiry learning and the use of objects/artwork as instructional tools.  The first week's readings reinforced the flexibility of artwork and objects in instructional settings -- objects can be used to spark conversation with all age groups and engagement with works of art/artifacts can teach critical thinking, observation, and presentation skills. 

I found the video example of the MoMA staff interacting with student groups particularly inspiring.  The staff encourage the students to observe an art work closely, discuss with each other their observations, and compare/contrast what they are observing.  The content helped inspire a couple of ideas about how to facilitate student interaction with artifacts currently on display at my work.

Science Fiction Collections Consortium: SF in Archives

The Science Fiction Collections Consortium (SFCC) recently announced a new resource wiki related to the Science Fiction/Fantasy/Speculative fiction archival collections.  These collections include SF the papers of SF writers, editors, artists, and organizations.   The wiki provides an alphabetical listing of collections, holdings institutions, and archival resources relating to SF archival material.  The wiki can be found here.

SFCC is an informal collective of librarians, archivists, and institutions who work with or hold primary and secondary material relating to Science Fiction and Fantasy.  The wiki provides a central resource and searchable list of SF archival resources for researchers.  It is also closely aligned with SFCC's desire to connect those working on/holding SF collections.  As an archivist and a lover of SF I couldn't help but be excited by this resource.