Natural History Museums


Worcester, MA — After opening a family-friendly interactive exhibition,“City Science: the Science You Live,” this nature/natural history/science museum engaged us to investigate visitor experience with a Summative Evaluation. The expressed goal was to choose a small number of the 27 components for a traveling exhibition, but the data also helped to define how and why the exhibition was so family-friendly, and reflected well on the idea of recognizing science in everyday life.

Kenai Fjords National Park

Seward, AK — The Formative Evaluation of prototype interactive exhibits that we did for a proposed expansion of the the Kenai Fjords National Park Visitor Center included observation and interviewing of visitors, investigating how well the prototype exhibits communicated key concepts (with Amaze Design, Boston MA).

Carnegie Museum of Natural History

Pittsburgh, PA — PPDR assisted with a Remedial Evaluation of the exhibition, “Dinosaurs in Their Time,” focusing on perceptions of key messages.

Denver Museum of Nature & Science

Denver, CO — PPDR conducted several studies including a Summative Evaluation of a rare combination of three different types of programming for Science-On-a-Sphere (SOS), funded by NASA: scripted shows, docent facilitated experiences, and self-guided (with auto-run playlists and added interpretive text and graphics on flat screen monitors).

In our Formative Study for the Health Sciences exhibition, visitors interacted with mock-ups of numerous exhibit components and gave their opinions; in collaboration with Jeff Kennedy Associates.

And our Summative Evaluation of “Space Odyssey,” a permanent exhibition about space exploration and space science included observations, ‘flash card’ interviews, and a post-visit follow-up study — all focused on assessing the unusual goals for this exhibition, which were experiential rather than content-based.

American Museum of Natural History

New York, NY — Key issues for a Summative Evaluation of “Creatures of Light,” an exhibition about bioluminescence, included visitors’ use and reactions to an innovative installation of iPads, awareness and reactions to the custom-created music in each section, and overall recognition of the storyline and interpretive design features. We also conducted a Summative Evaluation of “Climate Change,” a temporary exhibition about the evidence, personal behavior, and infrastructure solutions to a changing climate.

City University of NY (American Museum of Natural History); (City University of New York, Research Foundation)

New York, NY — AMNH collaborated with Dr. David Gruber to produce the fluorescence exhibit in “Creatures of Light” (mentioned above) highlighting Dr. Gruber’s NSF-funded research on coral reefs. With a target audience of middle school students, the Exhibit Evaluation we did was designed to inform the development of a new website to teach about fluorescent proteins.

Perot Museum of Nature & Science

Dallas, TX — Formative Evaluations that we conducted during the design process for the largest gallery of this new museum included Storyline Testing of the visitor experience of the innovative “Life Then and Now” exhibition (with Amaze Design).

Gulf Islands National Seashore

Gulfport, MS — Front-end Research for new ecological exhibits being planned for this interpretive center that was damaged by Hurricane Katrina included Focus Groups that were conducted with local residents (including Spanish-speaking and people with disabilities), teachers, and tourists. Formative Evaluation tested a series of mock-ups of exhibits about the four ecological zones of this park, as well as testing accessible design measurements (in collaboration with the National Park Service and Amaze Design).

National Museum of Natural History

Washington, DC — Front-end Research and a series of Formative Studies for an exhibition about human origins (early title: “What Does It Mean To Be Human?”). This research investigated visitors’ perceptions of relevant subjects such as time and human characteristics, as well as the sensitive issue of how to present the relationship between humans and other primates. Visitors responded to preliminary design plans and mock-ups of the exhibits, using our method of Storyline Testing (collaboration with Reich + Petch, exhibit designers).

New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science

Albuquerque, NM –The Front-End Research we did for an exhibition about the Triassic period explored visitors’ knowledge of that era and their interests in various themes and ways of presenting information.

Bell Museum of Natural History

Minneapolis, MN — Our Community Research to inform the concept planning for the expanded and relocated museum, explored the public’s perceptions of art, nature and science. It was followed by our Formative Evaluation, including focus groups with program participants, to help inform the process of designing exhibits for the new museum building; collaborated with Andrew Merriell & Associates, exhibit designer.