As Manager of Visitor Education at the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University, I found the visitor study performed by People, Places and Design Research (PPDR) to be quite helpful. It allowed the Arboretum to produce our first interpretive master plan based on valuable data about our visitors’ experience, interests and feedback about possible enhancements. This led us to develop new interpretive services that were better tailored to the interests of our visitors. For example, the PPDR study showed visitors wanted informal and self-directed interpretive activities, so we created a popular new program of volunteer Arboretum “interpreters” trained to engage visitors in casual conversations.
The PPDR team also helped us by giving training to Arboretum staff and volunteers in the art of intercepting and interviewing visitors. Our staff and volunteers were able to perform the intercept interviews which led them to embrace the results of the study, even when the results were surprising to them. This made it easier for everyone to “buy into” the implementation of new programs. The PPDR team is a pleasure to work with, and I feel confident in their approach and methodology for conducting visitor studies.
Manager, Visitor Education
Whitaker Center has worked with People Places & Design Research to help us to better understand our customers and to assess and improve the educational impact of our programs. I’ve found Jeff Hayward and his team to be good listeners, highly responsive to our needs, very knowledgeable in the field of informal learning, and thoroughly professional. They are a pleasure to work with.
Vice President, Harsco Science Center
Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts
Your summer visitor study was extremely useful for us. After sending the report, your presentation made the results come alive and gave real meaning to the numbers. Additionally your findings sparked spontaneous discussions in the Marketing, Exhibition, and Education Department meetings. Suddenly, the staff realized that as an organization we can improve our results if we have more insight into visitors and non-visitors. We look forward to collaborating with you on another creative, informative research project in the near future.
Harry Philbrick, Director
The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum
As an independent curator and folklorist, I have had the pleasure of working with Jeff Hayward’s stellar team of visitor research gurus at two different institutions with which I was curating major, NEH-funded traveling exhibitions. In both cases, PPDR’s work not only made the final exhibit infinitely more engaging and effective, it also made the process of conceptualizing and developing the exhibit an absolute dream. They have the uncanny ability to enter a project–at whatever phase and on whatever topic–and magically pull from the exhibit team exactly what their goals are, what their fears are, and what their questions are in terms of visitor experience, and then set about figuring out how to most effectively test and address them before the first visitor ever sets foot in the door. In both cases, PPDR’s reports saved my exhibit team from some costly and potentially embarrassing mistakes. You couldn’t find a smarter, more insightful, more conscientious–and more congenial–team. I would never want to do a major exhibition without them.
Suzanne Seriff, Ph.D.
Summerlee Scholar in Residence
The Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum
The Bell Museum of Natural History worked with People Places & Design Research for more than four years, during which time we commissioned several research projects (including community surveys and focus group studies). Jeff Hayward and Brian Werner bring energy, professional rigor, and a level of care and attention to a project that is rare, refreshing, and effective. Did we mention humor? Served dry with a pun or two on the side. Did we mention challenging? People, Places & Design Research helped the Bell Museum bring audiences into the planning process in ways we hadn’t done before. They changed our conversations about museum design and museum experience, a task that didn’t happen without emptying a little baggage from the railcar of convention. Good audience research stays with an organization and this research will influence us for years to come.
Museum Programs and Operations Director
Exhibit Development Manager
Bell Museum of Natural History, University of Minnesota
Thanks again for coming out and working with us on the evaluation of “Whales: A Journey with Giants.” I think I can say for all of us that we really appreciate your experience and expertise in helping us sort through all the hundreds of questions we asked, to come up with an evaluation instrument that helped us gather the information we need. You responded to our quest for solid information with a well designed study and a thorough analysis. Senior staff agree that the results are really interesting, and you did a great job integrating the experience of the immersive media program with the themed exhibits and other interpretive activities.
Former Director of Exhibits
Aquarium of the Pacific
Long Beach, CA
I’ve always thought that among the strengths you offer – in addition to the actual information that we get – is the process by which you help the staff think things through. In my mind that’s as useful as the final report.
Joyce Ice, Ph.D.
Museum of International Folk Art, Santa Fe
I wanted to take a moment to thank you formally for your efforts in producing this evaluation of the Permanent Exhibition; for partnering with us on this “journey” in a spirit of collegiality and respect, and for your sincerity, professionalism, and dedication along the way. The effort has been both challenging and rewarding for all of us, and the product itself will, I am certain, inform our thinking, planning, and programmatic commitments for years to come. Thank you again for all you did to ensure a comprehensive, scientifically sound, and informative evaluation.
Alice M. Greenwald
Former Associate Museum Director, Museum Programs
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Working with PPDR has been as valuable a part of doing audience research at Historic Hudson Valley as receiving the results of the research. We were fortunate to have identified a consultant who was sensitive to our needs, yet could be counted on to make sure that we remained true to our research objectives. PPDR gave us the tools we needed to make this project a success.
From the very beginning of the process – developing our goals, deciding on objectives, envisioning how we might use the results – through receiving the final analysis of the data, PPDR was a true partner with us all the way. The advice they gave us was impartial and based on the breadth and depth of their years of experience doing audience research for a range of museums and cultural organizations. Through working with Jeff Hayward and his team, we came to appreciate how much we did not know about doing audience research, and we came to appreciate even more the incredible value of using this firm.
One of the most important aspects of working with PPD&R was their sensitivity to the resistance that can be generated by receiving results that are contrary to organizational beliefs. Through a process that Jeff Hayward initiated – asking staff members to examine and explore existing beliefs about our audience – we were better able to accept the research results when they came in contrary to our dearly-held intuitions.
The results of our audience research studies now guide Historic Hudson Valley in many of the choices we make in our marketing strategies, public program offerings, and future directions for the organization. Thank you PPDR for helping to change our organizational culture and put us on the right track for success in the 21st century.
Susan T. Greenstein
Director, Kykuit Program & Audience Development
Historic Hudson Valley