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Museum Visitor Survey Says . . .

February 21, 2011

At the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa we recently sent out a simple 10 question survey to subscribers of our monthly e-newsletter – about 1500 total.  Our immediate goal was to get our visitors thoughts about the general direction of the museum over the past few years.  We also wanted to design a simple survey that could be taken in less than 5 minutes but also gave the opportunity for folks to provide greater detail if they chose to do so.  We wanted a survey that covered the scope of information we needed for the coming period.  That is, we did not want to send out this survey, followed by another in two months, followed by another . . .  and we committed to report the results of the survey and our response back to the subscribers.

We note numerous caveats on interpreting such surveys, but we are assuming the results will represent at least a trend in our visitors thinking about the museum.  So, with that in mind, we composed the survey, submitted the draft to sparked.com for feedback (I have posted before about this fantastic micro-volunteering website.), got some great feedback, and then distributed the survey to our subscriber list.  The results have begun to roll in.   Thus far 50% of our respondents visited the Museum in the last six months and 75% within the past two years.  Therefore, we know that the response was by active visitors to our museum.  Some of the results were very predictable but others are surprising  Here are a couple:

To the statement “I visit the C.H. Nash Museum to experience . . .” we were not at all surprised by those who noted prehistoric Native American cultures and archaeology as the reason for their visit.  We were surprised by the 55% who visit to experience our natural environment.  This result supports the strong response to our bat house installation posting on our Facebook page.   Coincidentally our staff recently discussed the need to pay greater attention to the “natural environment” part of our mission statement.

To the statement “Besides visiting the Museum please note the activities in which you have an interest . . .”  a solid 64% wanted more information made available via the internet.  This result confirms that components of the virtual museum are increasingly desired by even those individuals visiting museums in real-time.  A very surprising 42% of respondents wanted volunteer opportunities they could do from their homes.  Of note an identical 42% of responses wanted more volunteer experiences at the Museum.  Given the comparable requests and our very successful on site volunteer program, we are clearly missing an opportunity to involve more folks from their homes.  The desire to volunteer from home certainly confirms the thrust behind sparked.com and points to a visitor need we are not now meeting at Chucalissa.  Obvious at home volunteer activities might include digital scanning and data entry.

Without reviewing all the survey questions here, and though we expect doubling our responses over the next couple of weeks, we can interpret the initial survey results as:

  • the visitors who responded are pleased with the direction we are taking at the museum.
  • we need to balance our program emphasis more, especially to incorporate the natural environment
  • visitors want a greater digital presence and at home volunteer experience.

So, when all is said and done, we expect that this simple ten question survey will confirm that the general path we are going down at the museum is consistent with our mission and is also supported by our visitors.  At the same time, the survey raises several key points that we have missed along the way.  A great return for a limited effort on our part.

What surprises have you found in visitor surveys?

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