Audience research: A job in numbers

My name is Jenni Fuchs, and until recently I was the Audience Research Officer at National Museums Scotland. I used to get asked a lot “What does an Audience Research Officer do?”, so before parting ways with the museum to start a new life in Berlin, I agreed to write a blog post summing up my role. I was part of the Learning and Programmes Department and, in essence, I was responsible for developing a programme of visitor research through consultation and evaluation before, during and after exhibitions, gallery developments, events and other projects, liaising closely with the Marketing and Communications Department on an organisation-wide approach to visitor research and audience development. But, as is befitting for someone who deals with data and statistics on a daily basis, I thought I’d do my reflection as a list of numbers:

Evaluating the Connect gallery © Simon Madine
Evaluating the Connect gallery © Simon Madine.
  • It took me 18 months to get the job (from October 2003 to April 2005), with a total of 3 interviews during this time.
  • I held 2 job titles: the post was initially called ‘Visitor Studies Officer’ but was renamed as part of a departmental review in April 2010.
  • The remit of my role spanned all 5 museum sites, so I’ve worked at the National Museum of Scotland, National Museum of Flight, National War Museum, National Museum of Rural Life, and National Museum of Costume, with staff from 16 different departments.
  • Having such a wide remit meant I got involved in a lot of different projects. I worked on 7 gallery developments and 20 exhibitions, including Dinosaurs Alive, Concorde Experience, Nicholas & Alexandra, Connect, Movement & Shadows, Monster Creepy Crawlies, Beyond the Palace Walls, Sporting Scotland, Pixar: 20 Years of Animation, Discovery Zones, Fonn ‘s Duthchas: Land and Legacy, Picasso: Fired with Passion, Silver: Made in Scotland, Extremes: Life in Subarctic Canada, Scotland: A Changing Nation, Wildlife Photographer of the Year, Jean Muir: A Fashion Icon, Treasured, Call to Arms, Fantastic Flight, Fortunes of War, Garden Detectives, Salt of the Earth, Helmand: Faces of Conflict, Lewis Chessmen: Unmasked, Shining Lights. And, of course, the recent redevelopment of the National Museum of Scotland.
  • Probably the most common methodology, used mainly for summative evaluation, was surveys. In total, I co-ordinated 59 surveys, many of which I designed and carried out myself, though over the years I increasingly had assistance from a team of volunteers and interns.
  • Speaking of which, I mentored 17 interns and supervised 23 volunteers, who came from 9 different countries: Canada, England, Germany, Italy, Japan, Poland, Scotland, Taiwan and the USA.
  • The second most common methodology, used mainly for formative consultation, was focus groups. I personally facilitated a total of 48 focus groups including over 220 different participants.
  • I also assisted with managing prototyping for two major projects, the Connect gallery and the new National Museum of Scotland galleries, including a total of 56 hands-on interactives, both mechanical and computer based.
  • Another part of job remit was to train others how to do audience research. In total, I ran 22 workshops including introduction to visitor studies and evaluation, surveys & questionnaires, observation, and focus groups.
  • I was also quite often invited to talk to students and other groups about my work, and was a guest speaker on the St Andrews Museum Studies course 5 times.
  • In general, networking was a really important element of my role. Over the years I attended 36 conferences and seminars, and gave presentations at 12 of them.
  • A nice ‘side effect’ of this was the travelling I got to do – as well as networking on my home turf in Edinburgh, my job took me to 14 different destinations in 6 different countries, including Aviemore, Cardiff, Chester, Glasgow, Inverness, Leicester, Lerwick, Liverpool, London, Reykjavík, Rome, Sheffield, Swansea and Vienna.
  • As well as my ‘day job’, I held 5 other roles, including Social Media Officer at National Museums Scotland (during a one day a week year-long secondment with the Digital Media team), Chair of the UK Visitor Studies Group, Board Member (Website Co-ordinator) for ICOM’s Committee for Education & Cultural Action, as well as Secret Santa and Mrs Claus at our departmental Christmas parties.
  • My total time in post as Visitor Studies/ Audience Research Officer was 6 years and 81 days.

    Evalulating the Concorde Experience © Simon Madine
    Evalulating the Concorde Experience © Simon Madine.

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