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OaklandMuseumInstitution: Oakland Museum of California

Pacific Worlds Exhibition

Front-end Evaluation

The Oakland Museum of California’s Pacific Worlds exhibition wrestles with very large concepts and unusual objects. Front-end evaluation studies helped the development team clarify the exhibition’s Big Idea and understand how it, and related objects and storylines are relevant to the lives of visitors. I worked closely with staff to make this evaluation project an opportunity for professional development. Structured interviews made use of images, card sorts and other objects to help visitors reflect on their perceptions of the Pacific and California, the people who live there, and how they are connected. We also listened to visitors talk about objects in museum collections, how they believe museums come to have them, and their feelings about that. Open-ended interviews enabled a more esoteric exploration of how visitors conceive the Pacific-California relationship, e.g., if you think of California as the East Coast of the Pacific, it makes the Pacific seem less vast and distant. Group interview participants reacted to exhibit themes, storylines and objects to inform their interpretation and presentation in the exhibition.

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