Thirty years ago, people who developed museum exhibits had a lot more trouble finding out about exhibits in other museums, and there was practically no critical review of each other’s work. (A 1977 Directory of Exhibits at Science and Technology Museums, compiled by Shab Levy of the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, was one answer to the problem, left.) There were frequent comments from funders and others that museums were too often reinventing the wheel (or, as our funder, the National Science Foundation, put it, not “building on prior work”). ExhibitFiles was conceived as a way to change that, taking advantage of what were then (when we were funded, in 2005) new possibilities for sharing content online.
In a session about “Improving Our Practice” at the Visitor Studies Association (VSA) meeting in Chicago this week, Carey Tisdal and I shared some of the history, the fast-changing context, and the remedial evaluation that has helped the site identify areas for improvement. You can find our slides on a VSA wiki site. The remedial evaluation report is posted on InformalScience.org.