Animal Eyes

Topic: Life Sciences Subtopic: Human Body

Case Study

of an Exhibition

by Beth Redmond-Jones

Published on April 12, 2007, Modified on November 06, 2014

  • Description and goals

    Animal Eyes
    Do dogs see in color? Do cats see what we see? Do some animals have more than two eyes? Answers to questions like these were the subject of Animal Eyes, an exhibition that explored what we know about human and animal vision, as well as our ongoing quest to understand what animals actually see.

    Five exhibit areas explored the different facets of animal vision. Different Kinds of Eyes focuses on various types of animal eyes and how they work, while Different Places on Different Faces discussed the position of animal eyes and how this affects what they see. Night Eyes delved into how animals see at night, and Seeing In Color explored how color is processed in the eye and which animals can see color. Finally, 3 Eyes, 5 Eyes, 8 Eyes, More looked at animals with multiple eyes. Featured components included two Wentzscope stations, hands-on human and animal eye models, two audio stations, and other interactive components.

    The exhibition provided several educational resources, including a family guide; Braille, large-print, and Spanish translation of exhibition text; and a planning guide for teachers bringing field trips to the exhibition. The teacher’s guide included an overview of the exhibition content, including main themes and messages; a key to the National Science Education Standards; a simple, fun classroom activity; and some classroom project ideas for instructors who wanted to build the topic into their curriculum in a more significant way.

    Animal Eyes was awarded first place in the 1999 American Association of Museums (AAM) Exhibition Competition.

  • Development process and challenges

    We used a team process for this exhibition. The team consisted of the client and exhibit consultants. We first defined, as a team, our Big Idea, and we really used this as our guide for developing the exhibition. We had regular meetings every other week where we would discuss content and/or design, review evaluation results, etc. There were several actions during this process that really helped us to make this a great exhibition.

    Evaluation: Throughout the process, we conducted evaluation. We did some front-end to get an understanding of what our target audience (10-13 year olds) knew about human and animal vision. We then conducted many rounds of formative evaluation to test interactive mock-ups, language, illustrations, and understanding. After installation, we conducted a remedial/summative evaluation. This included qued interviews, exit interviews, and a timing and tracking study.

    Youth Advisory Group (YAG): Since this was an exhibition for 10-13 year olds, we put together an advisory group of kids in that age range. We met with them on a regular basis to discuss content, and get feedback on exhibit ideas and design concepts. This group even developed some of the exhibit components that we used in the exhibition. For a more detailed description of this experience, please read “How We Worked With Teens to Develop Animal Eyes,” by Beth Redmond-Jones and Penny Jennings, Journal of Museum Education, Vol. 25, No. 3, Fall 2000.

    Commitment to Remediation: First, when we first opened the exhibition, all of the interactive labels were printed on sticky-back paper so we could watch visitors, see what worked and what didn’t, and then change them immediately. This process really helped us to create effective labels for our visitors. Second, from the outset of this project, we, as a team, made the commitment to set aside money for remediation. We set aside 15% of the fabrication budget to make changed after we had opened. We succeeded in saving that money and could have actually used 18% to make all the changes we wanted. Those reserved funds allowed us to print final interactive labels, clarify and reprint some labels, change illustrations, and harden interactives.

  • Lessons learned, mistakes we made (and what we did about them)

    Lessons we learned:
    1. Leave money for changes. No one does it right the first time.
    2. Allocate more money than you think you’ll need. You’ll need it all.
    3. Include your target audience in the process. They’re smart and will tell you a lot of things you don’t know and will disprove your assumptions.
    4. Evaluate, evaluate, evaluate.

  • Exhibition Opened: August 1998

  • Traveling Exhibition: Yes

  • Estimated Cost: $500,000 to $1,000,000 (US)

  • NSF Funding: Yes, Grant No. ESI-9626970

  • Other funding source(s): American Academy of Ophthalmology, LensCrafters

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