The evaluation of museum engagement: User Centred Design principles and the development of audience-focussed interpretation

Ellie King

Ellie King (University of Warwick in partnership with Oxford University Museum of Natural History)

Supervised by Professor M Paul Smith at Oxford University Museum of Natural History and Professor Mark Williams and Dr Paul Wilson at Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG) at University of Warwick.

Ellie is a historian by background, having studied at the University of Warwick for both her BA and MA degrees in history and later Early Modern history. Ellie is excited and intrigued by the interdisciplinary nature of the project, which draws on disciplines such as design and technology, engineering, and statistics, as well as history and heritage. After completing her MA, Ellie was a Student Officer at Warwick Students’ Union, supporting and representing postgraduate students in the development of their education at Warwick. It was during this time that she began to learn many of the skills needed for this project. This, combined with her part time employment in the heritage sector, provided a good basis to take on this project and tackle the learning curve needed for its success. 

Ellie’s project is in collaboration with the Oxford Museum of Natural History and Warwick Manufacturing Group at the University of Warwick and primarily researches the use of visualisation technology – such as Virtual Reality – in the museum setting. The project evaluates how visitors use, interact with, and learn from technologies, with the aim of developing guidelines and design principles for the use of visualisation technology in the museum and heritage environment more widely. 

In her evaluation, Ellie aims to gain deep understanding of how visitors learn from technologies such as Virtual Reality during museum visits. With museums being places which generate learning through experience, this project seeks to develop understanding of how learning occurs through the experience of using technology. Furthermore, in utilising the principles of User Centred Design and User Experience, Ellie aims to develop more generalised guidelines on how technology can be used effectively in a museum setting, creating an ideal environment for learning rather than acting as a novel gimmick which will quickly lose interest from visitors.