Building the capacity for evaluation at a historic house museum can be a daunting task but has long-term, positive impact on programming and visitation. As the 15 partners in the Denver Evaluator’s Network (DEN) gained the necessary knowledge, skills, and confidence to conduct internal evaluations, they became better equipped to make informed decisions, engage and align with their communities, and hold true public value. As a historic house museum, what are the benefits to creating or participating in an evaluation network? Pictures1

  • Staff morale. Participants will become energized with new ideas and find fulfillment in helping others in an area of their personal expertise.
  • Provides big-picture information.  Collaborating on studies and sharing information will help your institution better understand the community around you, and give you access to audiences other than your own, thus opening an entirely new sample-set.
  • Identifies potential partner organizations.  Collaboration and partnership are big buzz words in the museum community. It will inspire conversations that may warrant two or more institutions to work together.
  • Saves time and resources. Researching evaluation instruments or even trying to design your own set of survey questions are all activities that take time and energy. A network will provide a roomful of human resources with whom ideas can be bounced and templates can be shared.
  • Group prototyping. Within a network, institutions can sample a tool or methodology as part of a pan-institutional study. Once tested, members can develop a full study as a group or on an individual basis.
  • Learning from peers. During meeting share outs staff will see other evaluation systems in action. Their experience may save a partner institution hours of planning and testing should they choose to implement that study themselves.

Expectation Wordle
By gaining a global understanding of a community’s demographics, interests, and preferences, and then acting upon that new knowledge, historic house museums will become more relevant. Visitors will find greater satisfaction in their experience and may be encouraged to explore other facilities.  It is a very small step in creating a community of learners.

 To be continued…

— Andrea Malcomb, Director, Molly Brown House Museum