In the past, museums focused on the knowledge they deemed important for visitors to learn with less focus on what the visitors wanted or what they actually learned. In the past decade, the focus has shifted to public education and outreach, requiring a dialogue between the institution and the public. Most science centers don’t have collections or a curator, but instead provide an open arena for visitors to learn about science and technology through interactive experiences. However, they have seen a change in community interaction, particularly with evaluations. Mary Olson from the Pacific Science Center explained, saying, “Evaluations are now integral to any new program, exhibit, or event that we put on. Visitor feedback is so important in knowing what to do next and many grants now require multiple forms of evaluations including front-end and back-end.”
Olson also emphasized the increased importance of community involvement. She listed a variety of community activities appealing to people across all demographics. They host science cafes across the Seattle area (for adults and teens), Google Field Trips for under-served children, Autism Early Open, Science on Wheels, and more. They also encourage community input from local scientists to help inform them on decisions about exhibits and programs. They strive to engage the community at all levels.
Museums and similar institutions are finding more ways to interact with the public and emphasize visitor experience. Feedback from the community is vital to achieve this end since no two visitors are alike and no community is homogenous.