Museology Master of Arts Program

We believe in the power of evidence-based practice. That is why we created the Specialization in Museum Evaluation. Through our Specialization, students gain a wide range of skills that prepare them to incorporate museum evaluation into their museum practice, as well as developing skills that are transferable to a range of positions within and outside of museums.

Evaluation skills

The Specialization in Museum Evaluation begins in a student’s first year of study and requires them to complete five consecutive courses, as follows:

MUSEUM 574 Introduction to Museum Evaluation (3 cr)

Provides an introduction to the field of evaluation as it relates to museum practice. Introduces basic types, ethics, and practices of evaluation and practices them through readings, reflective fieldwork, mentorships, and discussions. Offered Winter 2021, Angie Ong

Course Highlight

MUSEUM 575 Evaluation Data Analysis & Interpretation (3 cr)

Designed in collaboration with local museum evaluators and built around a central evaluation study, this course extends student experiences and develops skills in data collection, data management, data analysis and interpretation.Offered Spring 2021, Angie Ong

MUSEUM 576 Evaluation Specialization: Project Design (3 cr)

First course in a yearlong, student-led evaluation project. Builds on previously acquired skills and further develops competencies in project management, outcome development, evaluation planning, and instrumentation design. Students work with museum partners to develop the framework for an evaluation study and present a final evaluation plan implemented in the following quarter. Prerequisite: MUSEUM 574 and MUSEUM 577. Offered Fall 2020, Angie Ong

MUSEUM 577 Evaluation Specialization: Data Collection (3 cr)

Second course in a yearlong, student-led evaluation project. Students implement the evaluation plan presented in the previous quarter. Students focus efforts on refining their project’s instruments, developing research protocols, and collecting and managing project data. Prerequisite: MUSEUM 576. Offered Winter 2021, Angie Ong.

MUSEUM 578 Evaluation Specialization: Analysis & Dissemination (3 cr)

Culmination of yearlong, student-led evaluation project. Students conduct quantitative and qualitative data analysis, interpret findings, and prepare final project deliverables for museum partners. Dissemination of final project includes a formal presentation and evaluation report. Additionally, students submit a concluding peer-evaluation and reflection of project experience. Prerequisite: MUSEUM 577. Offered Spring 2021, Angie Ong.

Courses are progressive and interconnected—building student proficiency and comfort with evaluation over two quarters in preparation for them to independently design and manage a yearlong project for a local museum client.

Each evaluation course leverages the unique partnership the Museology Program has fostered with the local Seattle museum community over the years. Some of our museum partners include:

Evaluation internships

In addition to coursework, students have an opportunity to participate in evaluation-based internships. Students in evaluation internships have logged over 4,500 hours with museums.

  • Around Puget Sound, e.g. EMP Museum, Nordic Heritage Museum, Edmonds Historical Museum, Frye Art Museum, Gates Foundation Visitor Center, UW Botany Greenhouse
  • Across the United States, e.g. Shedd Aquarium, Minnesota Historical Society, Chicago History Museum, Snow Leopard Trust, Western Science Center
  • Internationally, e.g. Australian Museum

Student-led evaluation projects

The Specialization in Evaluation culminates in a yearlong evaluation study. Since 2009, over 90 graduate students have participated in dozens of evaluation projects with museums throughout our community.

These projects represent a range of evaluation studies—from front-end to summative—that assess exhibits, programs, and museum operations. They explore topics such as family learning, visitor expectations/satisfaction, visitor behaviors and experiences, museum resources utilization, and school group engagement.

Yearlong evaluation studies

2020

  • Who’s Coming? An evaluation of Free Family Days at the Bellevue Arts Museum
  • Beyond the Lost Arch: Excavating Visitor Perceptions of Archaeology Activation Strategies at the New Burke Museum
  • Exploring Visitor Motivations at KidsQuest Children’s Museum
  • Visitors to Volunteers: Understanding Motivations for Volunteering at MoPOP

2019

  • Sound off on Sound Lab: An Exhibit Evaluation Study at MoPOP
  • New Nordic, New Visitors: Learning About the Visitors to the New Nordic Museum
  • Exploring Audience Perceptions of the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience
  • An Evaluation of Audience Perceptions at the Woodland Park Zoo

2018

  • Exploring Audience Perceptions of Terminology at Woodland Park Zoo & Seattle Aquarium
  • What to Carry Forward: Visitor Experiences of the Wing’s Honoring Our Journey Exhibit
  • Exploring Visitor Perceptions: Examining What Visitors to MoPOP Think About Pop Culture

2017

  • First-time/Member/It’s Complicated: An Investigation of Visitors’ Relationship Status with the Henry
  • Pacific Science Center: The IMAX Experience
  • Living Computers Museum + Labs: Who is this for?

2016

  • Making Sound Choices: Evaluating Conservation in a Compact Space at the Seattle Aquarium
  • The Times They Are A-Changin’ in the True Northwest: The Seattle Journey exhibit at MOHAI
  • RAWR! Tweet Tweet! An Evaluation of the Addition of a Living Component to Pacific Science Center’s Exhibit Dinosaurs: A Journey Through Time
  • Evaluating Visitor Expectations of Content at the Burke Museum

2015

  • Learning Through Touch: Assessing Learning Behaviors at the Life on the Edge: Inland Seas Touch Pool. Seattle Aquarium
  • Quiz Yo’ Self: Evaluating Network Stations at the Wellbody Academy of Health and Wellness. Pacific Science Center
  • McCurdy Family Maritime Gallery: Summative Evaluation. MOHAI

2014

  • Getting to Know Family Audiences: Family-Oriented Program Use at MOHAI
  • Summative Evaluation of the Renovated Harbor Seal Exhibit at the Seattle Aquarium
  • Formative Evaluation of Lobby Experience and Resources at the Henry Art Gallery

2013

  • Exploring Spaces: Evaluating Visitor Experiences at the Henry Art Gallery
  • Science on a Sphere: Evaluation at Pacific Science Center
  • Visitor Use and Reaction to the Underwater Dome Exhibit at the Seattle Aquarium

2012

  • Evaluation of the Gallery Guide Program at the Frye Art Museum
  • Harbor Seal Habitat Renovation: Front-end Evaluation at the Seattle Aquarium
  • Evaluation of Self-Guided School Visits at Woodland Park Zoo

2011

  • Visitor Expectation and Satisfaction of Family Day Events at the Burke Museum
  • What’s Going On In This Tour? Evaluation of VTS-Based School Tours
  • Holding Power of Exhibits for the Toddler Audience at the Seattle Aquarium

2010

  • Cruisin’ the Fossil Freeway: Summative Evaluation at the Burke Museum
  • East by Northwest: Summative Evaluation at the Northwest African American Museum
  • Use and Effectiveness of Discovery Carts at Pacific Science Center

Impact on the museum field

Through their coursework, projects, and internships, students are encouraged to engage with museum professionals and contribute to the building of the field’s knowledge base.

Visitor Studies Association (VSA) is an international association of museum professionals who conduct and use audience research and evaluation. Students in the Specialization in Evaluation are exposed to the work of the VSA in a number of ways. Since 2009, our graduate students have presented their yearlong evaluation projects during a poster session at VSA’s annual conference. During this conference, students have the opportunity to network with museum professionals while showcasing their academic work. Students and alumni often become involved in VSA through volunteer work within its various professional committees, as well as participate in regional workshops.

American Alliance of Museums (AAM) is a nonprofit organization that supports the global museum community of over 30,000 members through advocacy and excellence. AAM focuses on developing standards and best practices, providing resources and career development, and advocating for museum health and sustainability. Students in the Specialization in Evaluation are encouraged to participate in any of AAM’s 22 professional networks, specifically the Committee on Audience Research and Evaluation (CARE). Like VSA, students have an opportunity to participate in webinars and professional development sessions, network with museum professionals, and participate at the annual meeting. Museology faculty serves leadership roles, both past and current, in a variety of AAM professional networks such as CARE, COMPT, and EdCom.

Informalscience.org is an online community and resource hub for those interested in research and evaluation within informal learning settings like museums, zoos, aquaria, and botanical gardens. Since 2009, students have used Informalscience.org as a way to disseminate project reports created by our graduate student teams who conduct evaluations within our partner institutions. All of our students are encouraged to create a profile on Informalscience.org as a way to connect and become involved with the informal learning community and also as a tool to seek out and use research and evaluation reports published by other professionals.