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Exhibitions Examined: the value and challenges of visitor research in science museums

  • Anne Land-Zandstra
  • Stephan Schwan
  • Inga Specht
  • Lizzy Bakker (NEMO)
  • Rooske Franse (NEMO)
  • Maartje Raijmakers (NEMO)
Wednesday 10 May 2023
Naturalis Biodiversity Center


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Science museums and science centers are constantly redefining their role in society. Especially in this time of major social challenges, such as climate change and loss of biodiversity, we are looking for effective ways to develop exhibitions and activities that move and activate visitors. But how do we do that and what do we know about the impact of a visit to our institutions? What works?

In what ways can our exhibitions and activities change the knowledge, attitude and behavior of visitors? How can we best use our collections, educators and programs for the purpose we have in mind? Visitor research in museums all over the world provides valuable information. What studies are already being done? How can we find this knowledge even better and apply it effectively? And in which areas is it important to acquire even more knowledge?

The VSC, the Science Communication & Society research group of Leiden University, scicom.nl and Naturalis Biodiversity Center are organizing a symposium on May 10, 2023, from 2-5 p.m. in Naturalis to discuss these questions. We are happy to welcome two German researchers in our midst: Prof. Dr Stephan Schwan and Dr. Inga Specht from Germany. Compared to the Netherlands, our eastern neighbors already spend a lot more time, money and energy on visitor research in museums.

Stephan and Inga will talk about the value and insights from visitor research in Germany and the rest of the world. They will also zoom in on the practice a medium-sized natural history museum with a small visitor research department. We also zoom in on the experiences of Dutch exhibition developers. Colleagues Rooske Franse, Lizzy Bakker en Maartje Raijmakers from NEMO Science Museum explain how they use research to ensure that an exhibition about aging connects to the interests of a broad and diverse adult audience. Finally, we will discuss how we can shape and organize collaboration in this area in the Netherlands even better in the future. We conclude with drinks and informal conversation.


This symposium is organised and sponsored by:

  • Leiden University (research group Science Communication & Society)
  • VSC (association for science museums and science centers)
  • SciCom NL
  • Naturalis Biodiversity Center
  • NeFCA (Netherlands Flanders Communication Association)


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