Media Evaluation & Visitor Research
Harpers Ferry Center works with the National Park Service Social Science Program to gather useful knowledge about park visitors and the public. HFC's goal is to acquire a better understanding of audiences, which ultimately helps planners and designers create more effective interpretive media. Another goal is to make media evaluations and evaluation resources accessible to parks and contractors who are working on interpretive media projects throughout the National Park Service.
Traditionally, there are three stages during which formal visitor studies,or evaluations, are conducted.
Front-End Evaluation is conducted during the beginning of a project, when themes, story lines, and program ideas are being considered. Front-end evaluation concentrates on getting input from potential visitors by means of interviews and/or focus groups, to find out what kinds of information they need and would like to know, and how this information could be presented in a meaningful, interesting, and cost-effective way. Misconceptions about the subject matter are also revealed at this stage, often leading to specific content and presentation elements designed to counter them.
- African Burial Ground, Analysis of Potential Audiences (30 pages)
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Discovery Center Exhibits (2 pages)
- Hamilton Grange National Memorial (24 pages)
- Manzanar NHS, Visitor Center Exhibits (18 pages)
- Martin Luther King, Jr. NHS, Children of Courage Exhibit (10 pages)
- Mount Rainier National Park, Visitor Center Exhibits (9 pages)
- NPS Message Project, Experience Your America Slogan (3 pages)
- Sagamore Hill NHS, Theodore Roosevelt Museum Exhibits (20 pages)
- Sagamore Hill NHS, Accessibility Focus Group, Theodore Roosevelt Museum Exhibits (6 pages)
- Selma to Montgomery NHT, Tent City Visitor Center Exhibits & Wayside Exhibits (45 pages)
- Shenandoah National Park, Dickey Ridge Visitor Center Exhibits (8 pages)
- Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site (26 pages)
Formative Evaluation is conducted before the fabrication of interpretive media, when mock-up testing can be carried out. Formative evaluation is intended to "catch" design and/or content problems before they become a part of the final interpretive media, when they are often difficult and expensive to fix.
- Abraham Lincoln Birthplace NHS, Exhibits (12 pages)
- African Burial Ground, Exhibits (81 pages)
- Grand Canyon National Park, Outlet Fire Wayside Exhibits (20 pages)
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Discovery Center Exhibits (7 pages)
- Gulf Islands National Seashore, Naval Live Oaks Visitor Center (43 pages)
- Martin Luther King, Jr. NHS, Children of Courage Exhibit (11 pages)
- Selma to Montgomery NHT, Tent City Visitor Center Exhibits & Wayside Exhibits (46 pages)
Summative/Remedial Evaluation is conducted after final media production, when the total "package" can be evaluated and final adjustments can be made. In a comprehensive evaluation program, the conduct of summative/remedial studies often reveal problems that were not, or could not be, identified during the earlier stages of development. For example, crowd-flow problems are often revealed only when the actual configuration of all the elements of the exhibition are in place. Similarly, orientation and signage problems become "obvious" at this point, and can often be corrected by relatively minor adjustments to wording and/or placement.
- Martin Luther King, Jr. NHS, Children of Courage Exhibit (26 pages)
- National World War II Memorial Brochure (16 pages)
- Rock Creek Park , Discovery Center Exhibits (11 pages)
- Sequoia National Park, Visitor Evaluation (28 pages)
- Shenandoah National Park, Byrd Visitor Center Exhibit (10 pages)
- Little Rock High School Historic Site (144 pages)
Research studies address broader issues than those that apply to a specific exhibit, publication, or other interpretive medium.
- Harpers Ferry Center, A Social Science Plan for HFC (130 pages)
- National Park Service Visitor Services Project, Visitor Use & Evaluation of Interpretive Media (115 pages - 3.2MB)
- Yellowstone and Rocky Mountain National Parks, Visitor Experience & Media Effectiveness (71 pages)
- Yosemite National Park, Tests of Perceived Risk & Attention to Bear Safety Signs (118 pages)