Institution: Pratt Museum, Homer, Alaska
Community Vision for a Community Museum and Engaging Diverse Communities
The Pratt Museum is deeply integrated into it’s local and regional community at the edge of the Kachemak Bay in Homer, Alaska. This fascinating area is home to Native Alaskan Tradition Bearers, Russian Old Believers, homesteaders and their descendants, commercial fisherman, scientists and artists. Community members have helped create the exhibits and programs, they have a strong sense of ownership, and strong opinions about the Museum, so the prospect of replacing the building has been no small matter. Clear messaging about the need for a new facility, and careful listening to the people who are affected by the change are paramount to the success of the project and the capital campaign. As always in this diverse area, a culturally responsive approach to visitor studies critical. Early in the planning process, the Museum launched Community Vision for a Community Museum with funding from the Institute of Museum and Library services. Staff conducted many information-gathering meetings with different community groups, and follow up meetings to share and get feedback on drawings other plans. VisitorStudies.com conducted a survey of meeting participants to assess their experience of and satisfaction with the process. A subsequent effort, Engaging Diverse Communities, was funded by the Rasmussen and Paul Allen Foundations. It examined the ways in which people perceive of the current Museum exhibits, spaces and programs, how they use them, what they value most and why, and what type of content would make exhibits and programs relevant and useful to them. VisitorStudies.com collaborated with a local evaluator to design and conducted group interviews with a wide range of community groups, individual interviews with key stakeholders, anonymous online surveys for staff, volunteers, and members, and paper surveys for visitors on site. We also created an on-line survey for the public which was promoted locally, and in Anchorage. Findings are guiding the selection and development of exhibits, programs and facilities.