What Outcomes Should the American Civil War Museum Measure? 2020 Annual Survey of Museum Goers

lelliott19

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Snip from the homepage of https://acwm.org/ <no CR notice>
What Outcomes Should the American Civil War Museum Measure?
I recently received an email link to the Richmond, Virginia American Civil War Museum's "Annual Survey of Museum Goers." We've been there several times over the last five years - about once a year on average. According to the museum's website, the Mission of the American Civil War Museum is "to be the preeminent center for the exploration of the American Civil War and its legacies from multiple perspectives: Union and Confederate, enslaved and free African Americans, soldiers and citizens." ACWM website

The first page of the survey is pretty straightforward. How often do you visit, etc.
But page 2, Question #3, the first question to get to the meat of the matter, asks: What does this museum do well? And the choices are:
  • To be honest, this museum doesn't do anything well.
  • The exhibits engage me or my family.
  • I/we enjoy the programs (e.g., classes, demonstrations, story times, lectures, etc.)
  • I/we enjoy the special events (e.g., holiday events, fairs and festivals, exhibit opening parties, etc.)
  • It makes my job as a parent/caregiver easier.
  • The museum helps people in my community.
  • The museum contributes to quality of life in my community.
  • Staff members always make me feel welcome.
  • None of these
  • Other please specify.
Here are my questions about this particular survey question.
1. In surveys, is it a common &/or desirable practice to position the least desired response at the top of the list? Hopefully, we have some marketing and communications people who can weigh in?​
2. Does this list encompass the most important outcomes the Museum of the Civil War should be measuring? Since this is the first real question and these are the options, I assume these are the things they hope they are doing well --- aka the "outcomes" they are accomplishing?​
3. What about educating guests and the public about the Civil War? Should that be a desired outcome for the museum?​
4. What about the % of guests who see something for the first time or learn something new? I'd think those would be the most desirable outcomes for a museum with such an extensive collection of high caliber artifacts?​

Some of the outcomes that are listed don't seem (to me) to be primary responsibilities of a Civil War museum - or really any museum, for that matter. Maybe I'm missing something? Is it a museum's responsibility to make the job of parent/caregiver easier? Is it the museum's responsibility to help people in the community? What about hosting holiday events, fairs, and festivals? I'd appreciate hearing the opinions of others, especially those who live there. @Jamieva @Viper21 @Package4 @JPChurch @General Butler @Frederick14Va and anyone else who lives in Virginia. I'd also love to hear from those who have visited @FarawayFriend @bdtex @luinrina @Eleanor Rose @Andy Cardinal

I feel certain there will be differing opinions about this, so please be constructive and polite to one another. :thumbsup:
 
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lupaglupa

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1. In surveys, is it a common &/or desirable practice to position the least desired response at the top of the list? Hopefully, we have some marketing and communications people who can weigh in?
If the survey is designed well then the choices will rotate with each user. Statistically, the first few choices are often more popular as people reply yes to the first thing they agree with rather than reading and considering all the options. In order to overcome that problem surveys change up which selection comes first.
 

lupaglupa

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2. Does this list encompass the most important outcomes the Museum of the Civil War should be measuring? Since this is the first real question and these are the options, I assume these are the things they hope they are doing well --- aka the "outcomes" they are accomplishing?3. What about educating guests and the public about the Civil War? Should that be a desired outcome for the museum?4. What about the % of guests who see something for the first time or learn something new? I'd think those would be the most desirable outcomes for a museum with such an extensive collection of high caliber artifacts?
This does seem to be a list that misses the obvious - so much so that I have to assume they did it deliberately. Perhaps they believe that the educational mission of the museum is a given. After all, would you come there if you weren't at some level interested in learning about the Civil War? What they now want to know is - what else is working?

I'm not saying I think they have a great list of options here. But I can sort of imagine how they got to these choices. I can really imagine it if I consider that the list was put together by a committee.

<minor spelling edit>
 

John Winn

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I visited in 2016 and, while I enjoyed the museum, I (and my wife) thought they ventured into modern black history more than was appropriate for what they are (e.g. a whole room full of large photos and story boards about Martin Luther King); really seemed like pandering to me. Anyway, I'm with you, Laura, that it's very odd that they don't seem to think one of the "outcomes" ought to be to teach anybody about the history of the war era. I'm also with you that a number of those things listed aren't appropriate goals for a museum (e.g. making parental duties easier). Not at all sure what to think.
 
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lupaglupa

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I'm also with you that a number of those things listed aren't appropriate goals for a museum (e.g. making parental duties easier).
I took my son to a lot of museums that, honestly, made my life easier by giving him quality distractions. But those were museums for children! I would never have taken him to a history museum as a distraction. If I had taken him to a museum like the American Civil War Museum it would have made my life harder, as I would have had so many difficult things to explain.
 

Viper21

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I visited the previous, "Museum of The Confederacy" a couple times. The last time in 2015. I was pretty satisfied with the museum at that time. I thought they had some great artifacts, & some great displays. It was worth the price of admission, & then some. I did not do a guided tour or anything like that. Was totally self guided. Spent several hours doing so.

I have not been to the new museum. I have planned on visiting when it's convenient. That is to say, I'm not making a special trip to Richmond based on reviews I've read. I would like to see it but, will wait until I have other business in Richmond, or happen to be passing through, & have the extra time. Good chance of that happening relatively soon.

I find the survey questions way off the mark from what I would expect. I hope the new museum isn't as far off the mark as the survey.
 
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I visited in 2016 and, while I enjoyed the museum, I (and my wife) thought they ventured into modern black history more than was appropriate for what they are (e.g. a whole room full of large photos and story boards about Martin Luther King); really seemed like pandering to me. Anyway, I'm with you, Laura, that it's very odd that they don't seem to think one of the "outcomes" ought to be to teach anybody about the history of the war era. I'm also with you that a number of those things listed aren't appropriate goals for a museum (e.g. making parental duties easier). Not at all sure what to think.
Does seem odd for a CW museum
 

Jamieva

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I have not been there. I had previously gone to the old MOC several times and took my kids to tour the White House of the Confederacy. Based on several interviews i had read with Christy Coleman, who used to run the museum at Tredegar, I had some serious questions about what agendas were being pushed and how truly "well rounded" the story was being told.

She just left and is now going to be running Jamestown/Yorktown so I am curious to see how the new person in charge runs it and if they make any major tonal changes. I will go visit it at some point so that I can draw a full conclusion. Most likely this spring or summer.
 

Neagle2VR

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I received the same survey and had the same thoughts as you, Laura. I've only visited this museum once. I won't be wasting any more of my money to see what they had on display at that time. I agree with John Winn about the displays. I was very disappointed with my only visit. I went to the old Museum of the Confederacy about eight or nine years ago and was expecting to see the same, and similar, items and maybe more at the new location. I understand when they first opened the location on Tredegar St they had a very good collection of artifacts. They didn't own those items. The collection owner didn't approve of the direction the new owners were taking the museum, so he removed his collection.
 

lelliott19

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I went to the old Museum of the Confederacy about eight or nine years ago and was expecting to see the same, and similar, items and maybe more at the new location.
That was my experience too. The new design features mostly large scale, wall-mounted image boards with some video and interactive opportunities embedded in them. There are only a few cases, here and there, that contain artifacts. And when I say "a few" it seemed to me there were less than 10 throughout the entire museum --- and some of those were very small, individual vignettes.
I have not been to the new museum. I have planned on visiting when it's convenient.
I will go visit it at some point so that I can draw a full conclusion.
Does seem odd for a CW museum
while I enjoyed the museum, I (and my wife) thought
For those who have not yet visited the new museum, you might take a look at this video. Scroll to about half way down the page - just under the end of the article.
ACWM ANIMATED WALK-THROUGH VIDEO

According to financial reports available here, the June 2018 cost of the "new museum exhibit design and fabrication" was $2,024,292
 
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Neagle2VR

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That was my experience too. The new design features mostly large scale, wall-mounted image boards with some video and interactive opportunities embedded in them. There are only a few cases, here and there, that contain artifacts. And when I say "a few" it seemed to me there were less than 10 throughout the entire museum --- and some of those were very small, individual vignettes.




For those who have not yet visited the new museum, you might take a look at this animated walk-through. Scroll to about half way down the page - just under the end of the article.
I just went to the link in your post and watched the walkthough video. That's the same thing I saw when I went there, I think two years ago. I was irritated about it. The new owners are trying to be "woke".
 
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I'd also love to hear from those who have visited
Well that would be my daughter and I who visited a little less than two years ago in 2018.

It didn't look anything like what I just saw in the film clip. Thank God.

It actually displayed numerous artifacts, even though these were intermingled with some boards and educational information.

There were flags, lots of flags. I don't see any here on display.

I was half hearted about it's purpose as a museum then. Now I'm even less convinced.

Personally, I wouldn't visit again. I'm much more keen to return to the Confederate museum in NOLA.

As to the questionnaire, I'm totally confused about how a museum is meant to make your job easier as a carer, unless you are leaving your child to wander through on their own :laugh: or they've added a creche! Seriously, what has that got to do with a museum?

The questioning is about as pointless as the museum now appears to be in terms of the purpose a museum generally serves, which is to display artifacts. At least that's my understanding.
 

Cavalier

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I have always wanted to get down to Richmond to see that museum. For several resson, mostly work, I never found the time. After what I have read posted here on Civil War Talk on this thread and a previous one, I will never go. An ardent museum visitor all my life, I go to see artifacts, not large scale wall mounted image boards with interactive displays embedded in them.

On visiting a museum in L.A. back in the early 1960s I saw a collection of artifacts of Marie Antoinette on loan from a museum in France. Some of her dresses, letters I think, her writing desk, a lot of other things connected to her and, most thought provoking of all, the kneeler she used while in her cell awaiting her execution. A lot more impressive than a bunch of wall mounted image boards with interactive displays mounted in them.

John
 

luinrina

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The walkthrough video is basically what my museum visit last summer was like. I did spend several hours looking through the exhibition, but I've seen better museums.

I do not mind interactive displays - if done as a funny game or quiz, it might lure especially younger people into the topic. Most kids just do not have the patience to read and look at things the entire time. They need interaction. But the museum's screen displays were that, more text and pictures of exhibition items that they couldn't fit into the cases. Not really engaging at all IMO.

As for the survey: I seriously don't understand what helping people or improving the quality of life in the community has to do with a museum's job of educating people. Why are they asking that? IMO, even if it's the museum's main task and should be obvious, they should ask whether they're good at achieving that or need to improve. If no one likes the exhibition as it is, how are they going to get people to visit and earn money?
 
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