Exhibits – they come in many shapes and sizes. Large exhibits, small exhibits, exhibits that “wow,” and exhibits that educate. But what exhibits are the most successful? We decided to ask those who know best – the experts who run our nature centers and parks!
We brought short, informal surveys to a recent industry conference, the Association of Nature Center Administrators (ANCA) 2017 Magnolia Summit in late August. Our survey wasn’t holistic and we didn’t go into too much depth, but we asked the industry leaders what types of exhibits both they and their sites’ visitors enjoyed the most. Here are some of the findings!
We asked the experts to think back to visiting museums and nature centers during their childhood, and told them to note the exhibits that they remembered the most fondly. They could note multiple types.
- 64% recalled exhibits with real artifacts, specimens, and fossils.
- 55% recalled hands-on, interactive, participatory exhibits.
- 45% recalled big “wow” exhibits, such as giant models and large re-creations.
- 0% recalled exhibits that went into a subject in-depth, such as with a lot of text.
We then asked them to think about the visitors to their nature sites today, and told them to note the exhibits that are the most popular with their visitors. Once again they could note multiple types.
- 55% said that their visitors enjoy hands-on, interactive, participatory exhibits.
- 36% said that their visitors enjoy exhibits with real artifacts, specimens, and fossils.
- 36% said that their visitors enjoy big “wow” exhibits, such as giant models and large re-creations.
- 0% said that their visitors enjoy exhibits that go into a subject in-depth, such as with a lot of text.
The main takeaways? We were surprised – and quite happy – that both the experts and their visitors enjoy “the real thing” – exhibits with real artifacts and specimens. We were thrilled, though not as surprised, that hands-on interactive displays and big “wow” exhibits are also popular, since Taylor Studios excels at creating these types of experiences. And finally, we were not too shocked to discover that the least popular exhibits were those with too much text and in-depth analysis.
Over the next year, we are partnering with a handful of nature and history sites to pilot our first-ever Exhibit Evaluation and Visitor Studies program so that we can study these and other questions in much greater depth. We will then have even better answers to the question of what makes exhibits successful – and which types of displays, dioramas, and interactives are the most effective. Want to join our effort and learn which of your exhibits are working and which are not? Give us a call at (217) 893-4874 or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.