How human behaviour is helping Derby Museum to design its new nature gallery
Techniques used to monitor shoppers’ behaviour in the retail sector have been put into action at a Derby museum to help create a new home for its popular natural history collection.
Volunteer researchers working at Derby’s Museum and Art Gallery in The Strand, tracked more than 100 visitors as they moved through the venue’s nature gallery, carefully noting what items they stopped at, how long they looked at them and what exhibits they walked past.
They also noted visitors’ tell-tale postures as they took interest in something, such as pointing, crouching and leaning to look closer, recording what they were standing in front at the time.
Using these and a number of other techniques, including a project lab, Twitter account and asking people to write comments on sticky notes, researchers found that the most popular exhibits were the butterflies, fossils and taxidermy specimens.
Around half of the current display is being rehoused with many items, including the Allenton Hippo skeleton, which was discovered beneath the Crown Inn pub in 1895, set to be relocated into the nearby 1001 Objects Gallery. Making way for a new area in the existing nature gallery where visitors can relax or the museum and companies can hold events.
At the same time, the museum plans to make its exhibition more interactive and wants to change the way that it presents the exhibits to encourage people to think more deeply about nature and explore their own natural world when they leave the museum.
The new exhibition is being curated by Andrea Hadley-Johnson…
…who put her previous career experience as Head of Visual Display for retailers, including Habitat, to good use in order to get a good understanding of how people react to the current gallery.
She said: “The retail sector takes shoppers’ behaviour extremely seriously, using retail psychologists to put monitoring techniques into practice to ensure that product displays are attractive and enticing.
“Our aim here is similar – to put the needs of our visitors first – and although it was just a part of a number of exercises we carried out, it gave us a fascinating understanding into what aspects of the current gallery engaged and excited people, and which bits turned them off.
“We have just launched a second round of public feedback activity and we will put everything we have learned to good use to ensure that we present our collection in a way that fires people’s imaginations.
“By using the collection as a stimulant to ‘take notice’ we hope people will leave the gallery with a desire to appreciate, protect and enjoy their own natural world”
The current public feedback activity…
…called Project Lab II, allows visitors to make curious creatures out of laser-cut wood and add their thoughts to a large ideas board to help the project team decide what will go into the display and how it will be presented.
The exercise has been influenced by the successful Re:Make project at Derby Silk Mill, which saw the people of Derby co-produce the space, selecting and preparing objects, making furniture and fittings and developing labels.
The museum’s revamped nature galleries could also feature specially commissioned artwork created using items from the museum’s collection as well as other treasures directly inspired by nature. They are expected to be ready by April next year.
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