Science Museums

Nurture Nature Center

Easton, PA — Our Front-End Research and Formative Evaluation was done to determine whether a NASA-funded science program for middle school students raises students’ level of awareness and understanding of the interconnectedness of Earth systems. Using a theme of ‘6 degrees of influence’ NNC was awarded a highly competitive grant to design and implement this Science On a Sphere program, offered at the Nurture Nature Center and the Maryland Science Center (Baltimore).

Tech Museum of Innovation (now called “The Tech Interactive”)

San Jose, CA — PPDR has conducted Front-End Research and Formative Evaluation of the “Bio-tinkering Lab” — a laboratory space (funded by NIH, SEPA) created in partnership with a science program at Stanford University. Front-end Research focused on the perceptions of middle school aged children visiting in family groups, such as their awareness and understanding of biology-related terms and concepts. Formative Evaluation, so far, has investigated an innovative bio-ink created by bacteria. For the past few years, The Tech has been moving in the direction of more open-ended exhibit experiences, and now they are trying this with biology.

SEE Science Center

Manchester, NY — This Science Center received an IMLS grant to develop virtual programs for schools to replace/substitute for field trips and outreach programs during the pandemic. The goal for evaluation is to analyze children’s perceptions of the virtual programs and compare this to children’s experience with in-person programs (in progress).

Boonshoft Museum of Discovery

Dayton, OH — PPDR has completed several evaluations for “Exoplanets Exploration” — a NASA-funded exhibition about the science and technology behind the search for planets elsewhere in the universe — including Formative, Remedial and Summative Evaluations. For the Formative Evaluation, we focused on 9-13 year olds and guided staff in a study of two prototype components. The Summative Evaluation found that this exhibition engaged children with space exploration in a variety of ways and there was a wide range of ‘entry points’ to the educational content, from the familiar to the more complex.


Worcester, MA — The data from our Summative Evaluation of “City Science: the Science You Live” — a family-friendly interactive exhibition — was helpful in two ways. 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.

MIT Museum

Cambridge, MA — The MIT Museum is planning to move to a new location and building. As one part of preparing for this change, senior management asked about attracting more local visitors to complement their strong national and international audience (documented in two previous systematic studies onsite). We conducted community research in 2018 of museum-going households within ~25 miles, yielding findings that offer guidelines for planning and possible re-branding.

Earlier in our relationship with MIT Museum, an initial Visitor Analysis was conducted to define the composition of the visitor audience and to inform strategic and master planning for exhibits. A second two-season Visitor Analysis was conducted to see if the audience had changed over time and to explore visitors’ decisions-to-visit, enjoyment of current exhibitions, and interests in future experiences.

Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts

Harrisburg, PA — For the Whitaker Center, we did Program Evaluations of two innovative live programs. One was “Surgery Live,” a program for high school classes involving live broadcast of non-emergency surgery from a nearby teaching hospital. The other developed and tested two versions of a Science On a Sphere (SOS) program about storm formation: a traditional docent-led presentation, and a theatrical presentation by a Storm Chef. We also conducted Audience Research for Master Planning, addressing issues about the composition of the audience, use/interest in temporary exhibitions, defined space and experiences for preschool children, and logistical issues (with Roto Studio, master planners).

Maryland Science Center

Baltimore, MD –We worked on several projects including a Formative Evaluation for Science On a Sphere (SOS), investigating the use and value of add-on computer kiosks; a Summative Evaluation of a supplemental kiosk SOS installation, and a Visitor Orientation. Earlier, we also outlined a process of collaboration for a similar project with the Science Museum of Minnesota.

Science Museum of Minnesota

St. Paul, MN — PPDR has worked with this museum on a number of projects. We did Summative Evaluations of “Water: H2O =Life”, a collaboration with the American Museum of Natural History in New York City; “Science Buzz,” a frequently updated exhibit about current developments in science; and “When the Dinosaurs were Gone,” about the dominance of crocodiles as top predators, using evidence from archaeological digs in North Dakota prior to becoming a traveling exhibit. We also conducted Front-end Formative and Summative Evaluations for “Robots & Us,” a challenging story of the relationships between people and machines; and also a three-phase evaluation process for “Mysteries of Catalhoyuk,” an exhibit about the process and multi-disciplinary perspectives of a long-term archaeological project in Turkey seeking to emphasize process and evidence over valuable artifacts.

Science Museum of Virginia

Richmond, VA — Here we conducted a Pilot Study for an initiative to extend museum visits with electronic networking.


San Francisco, CA — We used telephone interviews for a Community Survey, to assess the image of the Exploratorium among visitors and non-visitors in the 5-county Bay Area, and to explore people’s reactions to a proposed move to a new location downtown.

Louisville Science Center

Louisville, KY — Our work here included Formative and  Summative Evaluations of “The World Around Us” exhibit, presenting environmental topics in three galleries: land, water and air.

Connecticut Science Center

Hartford, CT — We collaborated with Jeff Kennedy Associates and Thinc Design to conduct Audience Research for Exhibit Planning, and Consulting about visitor experience issues, on selected galleries prior to construction of this new museum.

New York Hall of Science

Queens, NY — With funding from the National Science Foundation, we conducted a Summative Evaluation of “Connections” — an exhibition about networks, links and connections in any form.