Activating Audience Collaboration at the Autry
In June 2012, the Autry’s curatorial and education departments conducted an internal visitor survey to gage the likes, dislikes and confusion of their public to assist them in a future remodel of a permanent exhibit. Using a simple model of analysis, the staff gathered over 20 surveys from the public, their staff and their college-level interns. Participants represented a broad range, including children, first-time visitors, college students and veteran staff. While I served as an intern that summer, it was my responsibility to analyze and interpret the results of this survey for the exhibit design team.
I used the work from my analysis to develop a conceptual design for the remodel and reinterpretation of the Autry’s Cowboy Gallery as my final project for ASU’s Exhibit Design and Development graduate course. By juxtaposing the expectations, disappointments and transcendent experiences of the public with the prerogatives of exhibit designers, it was my goal to examine the feasibility of public cooperation in exhibit design and the best utilization of similar audience exercises through this case study. I argued that the difference between the seasoned perspectives of staff and the first impressions of visitors often contrast greatly and collaboration with the public not only promotes transparency within a museum but also furthers museums’ understanding of the needs of their audiences.
As the final component of my research and exhibit proposal, I presented this poster at the 2013 National Council on Public History Conference in Ottawa, Ontario.