Heart Smart

Topic: Life Sciences Subtopic: Human Body

Case Study

of an Exhibition

by Carlos Plaza

Published on August 13, 2012

  • Description and goals

    Heart Smart is a 1000-square-foot English, Spanish and Haitian Creole exhibition and research project composed of 16 interactive components that engage visitors in the subject of heart health by inviting them to take some simple personal measurements such as blood pressure, height, weight, waist size, and self-reported health habits. The exhibit also informs visitors about the research process and invites them to contribute their health and demographic data – on an anonymous basis – to real life research.

    As an exhibit Heart Smart aims to educate the community and raise awareness about cardiovascular disease. Heart Smart is positioned to provide visitors with the tools they can use to evaluate their risk factors and take control of their own health, while simultaneously allowing them to actively participate in a research study.

    As a research project Heart Smart is the basis for two studies being conducted by the University of Miami’s Psychology Department. One is a museum visitor study and the other is a high-school health education study. The first employs the data voluntarily and anonymously contributed by exhibit visitors to investigate our community’s lifestyle habits and cardiovascular risk factors as well as the extent to which visitors perceive the museum as an appropriate and trustworthy setting to conduct research. The second study is a randomized controlled trial of public high school students designed to examine the influence of the museum-based health exhibition and its related materials on cardiovascular health knowledge, readiness for healthy behavior change, and, self-efficacy for healthy behavior change.

    Multilingual Interpretation
    All of Heart Smart’s computer interactives are presented in English, Spanish and Creole. The exhibit’s interpretive panels are presented in English and Spanish. The Haitian Creole version of the intepretive panels is available as a 24-page exhibit tour booklet that includes all of the illustrations used on the panels.

    Over 60% of Miami’s residents are of Hispanic origin. The Miami Science Museum presents all of its exhibits in English and Spanish as part of its commitment to serve this large segment of the community. The purpose is not only to provide useful tools for interpretation, but also to be culturally inclusive and welcoming.

    Over the last 12 years exhibit developer and bilingual communications specialist, Carlos Plaza, worked to generate a cohesive policy of bilingual interpretation (English/Spanish) built through the efforts necessary to translate more than 35 traveling exhibits and all permanent Museum installations. These same interpretive and design protocols were used in the development of the Heart Smart exhibit and are summarized here:

    Writing Guidelines
    • Write in first language, then convey meaning, not literal translation, in the second language
    • Reformulate text in first language based on insights gained from interpreting the second language
    • Voice, tone and style should be the same in both languages
    • Use universal terms whenever possible and most familiar regional variations when necessary
    • Create concise, digestible chunks of information
    • Determine word count based on visitor behavior, graphic design and readability
    • Test and modify as necessary

    Design Guidelines
    • Develop consistent size, arrangement and aesthetics for all interpretive text
    • Give equal weight to both languages – font size, headlines, etc.
    • Clearly separate the two languages
    • Use different background colors
    • Be consistent with the placement of elements
    • Avoid repeating the same images on one panel
    • Test and modify as necessary

    Miami also has a relatively large Haitian community. Approximately 5% of Miami residents are of Haitian origin. With the support of a Recovery Act Administrative Supplement grant from NIH, the Museum developed Haitian Creole interpretation materials and strategies. The Heart Smart project was already nearing completion, so the Haitian Creole language was added to the computer interactives and a booklet was created as a means of providing the information and illustrations available on the English-Spanish interpretive panels. As the Museum does not have a Haitian Creole writer on staff, a professional translation service company was contracted to translate the English text.

  • Development process and challenges

    One challenge was for the University researchers to adjust to the amount of time a typical visitor spends in science museum exhibitions. As content experts they had planned for a large amount of interpretative text, but as exhibit development progressed and the realities of visitor behavior came to the fore, they realized that they would have rely on the exhibit’s lead developer to simplify the content and limit the word count. This is not only true of exhibits in general, but particularly of bilingual exhibits where text in two languages next to each other can give a passing visitor the perception of an insurmountable amount of information. In the end, the team developed nine large panels (30” x 84”) to cover the exhibition’s main themes of nutrition, physical activity, stress management, and risk factors. Each panel had an average of 112 English words including title, body, captions, and tables. The Spanish text averaged a few more words.

    For the exhibit developers, the precision of the interactive components proved a challenge. It was imperative that both visitors and researchers obtain accurate measurements. At the same time, the interactives needed to be completely autonomous and durable. The ultimate solution was an investment in high technology equipment and constant calibration and maintenance (2-3 times/week).

    Another challenge was the interaction among children and adults in the same group. Health habits, blood pressure, BMI, and waist size recommendations are calculated using age and gender tables embedded into the exhibits’ software that correspond to the individual’s data entered at the check-in. These calculations are valid to individuals as young as two years old (eight years old for blood pressure). Still, the use of the exhibits needs to be facilitated for non-readers, and this produced an excess of young children roaming through the exhibition area as their parents tried to get through their own measurements hastily. To remediate this, the developers created interactive components for young audiences, including relaxation and exercise stations, and a body puzzle.

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

    Special Group Tours for Target Audience
    In order to reach segments of the community that are under-represented in the sciences, Heart Smart was originally planned to become a locally-traveling exhibition. However, the unforeseen need for constant calibration of many interactive components, has kept the exhibition at the Miami Science Museum. Therefore, Special Group Tours were initiated to meet the original goal of reaching underrepresented audiences. For example, as Haitians are not a traditional Museum audience, special group tours were arranged to bring in community members from local Haitian community organizations, churches, and sports centers. An interpreter fluent in Haitian Creole was also hired.

    Multilingual Text Requires Multicultural Content
    It is possible that non-traditional museum audiences like the Haitian-Americans who visited Heart Smart require more culturally relevant interpretation.

    For example, many Haitian-Creole speakers did not use the interactive exhibits to take their measurements despite entering their basic demographic data (age, gender, ethnicity) at the Check-In. There are a total of 16 data collection opportunities, including height, weight, heart rate, and quiz questions. Thirty-three percent of Haitian-Creole users consented to have their personal measurements saved for research but did not actually use any of these exhibits. The comparable number for English and Spanish speakers is 22% and 16% respectively. Perhaps more culturally relevant text – rather than just translated – and more relevant illustrations, could have improved the quality of their visit.

    Was It All Worth It?
    Yes. 46.2% of visitors were of Hispanic origin (50,526) yet only 6.81% used the computers in Spanish. 92.61% or 101,191 visitors used it in English. 0.58% or 632 visitors used it in Creole. Interviews with 57 visitors showed that 21% of them made use of the Spanish language text in the Heart Smart exhibition. The evidence suggests that visitors of Hispanic origin appreciate the multilingual signage.

  • Exhibition Opened: March 2010

  • Exhibition Still Open!

  • Traveling Exhibition: No

  • Location: Miami, None, United States

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

  • Size: 1000 to 3,000 sq ft.

  • Other funding source(s): Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) from the National Center for Research Resources (NCRR) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH)

  • Website(s):  http://www.miamisci.org/www/heartsmart.html

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