Skip to content

CARE-apy: Belonging in Cultural Institutions

Category: On-Demand Programs: Audience Research & Evaluation
Title slide with CARE in colorful letters and the name of the webinar CARE-apy: Belonging in Cultural Institutions: Approaches, Findings & Future Directions for the Field

Approaches, Findings & Future Directions for the Field

What does belonging look like in cultural institutions? We’ll share how two projects worked to understand belonging – across a diversity of institutions and visitor perspectives. The session explores the models of belonging that have guided our work – the overlaps and separations between them – as they have emerged from existing literatures on belonging and in conversation with the guests participating in our studies. We will share our study methodologies and results to equip participants with some tools and information to further the fieldwide exploration of the concept of visitor belonging. Finally, the webinar will feature a collective discussion with participants about the affordances and challenges of applying a concept like visitor belonging to further program and experience innovation, as well as DEAI goals.


Ann Atwood:

Hello, everyone and welcome to this CARE-apy session on Belonging in Cultural Institutions: Approaches, Findings, and Future Directions for the Field. This webinar is produced by the Committee on Audience Research and Evaluation, one of the American Alliance of Museums professional networks. Therapy webinars are intended to connect our members and share professional expertise.

My name is Ann Atwood, I use the pronouns she/her and I work at the Museum of Science in Boston, Massachusetts. Today we’ll be talking about sense of belonging in cultural institutions and the approaches to projects have developed to understand that belonging across a range of institutions and visitor perspectives.

Today we’ll be talking with Lauren Applebaum, the manager of research and evaluation at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. Sarah Lukowski, a evaluation and research associate at the Science Museum of Minnesota. And Evelyn Christian Ronning, another evaluation and research associate at the Science Museum of Minnesota.

Before we get started, I’d like to do a few quick housekeeping items. We will be recording today’s session and we’ll have time for Q&A sprinkled throughout the presentation as well as at the end. In the meantime, I’ll ask that we all stay on mute since we are a large group today. We do plan to make this webinar available on AM’s YouTube page, and it should be available in three to six weeks. This webinar is kept free of charge, and so we’d like to encourage you to consider membership to the American Alliance of Museums. And with that, I’ll turn over the talk to Evelyn. Thank you.

Evelyn Christian Ronning:

Thanks so much. And thank you to all of you for being here today for this conversation. We are very much excited about this topic and we’re excited that you’re excited about this topic as well, and the implications for museums. Again, the title of our talk is Belonging in Cultural Institutions, Approaches, Findings, and Future Directions for the Field. Lauren, Sarah, and I will be leading you through two studies that we’ve been undertaking around belonging in museums and cultural institutions. But we would like to hear from you first. And so, as you’re settling in and thinking about this topic and thinking about what it means for your own work, we’d love for you to reflect on what you think belonging might look like or feel like in a museum or cultural institution. And when you’re ready, I would love for you to type a few words, or a phrase, or some thoughts around what you think belonging looks like and feels like in museums and cultural institutions, and throw that in the chat for a little waterfall conversation. And so, we’ll pass it to Lauren for going through the agenda.

Lauren Applebaum:

All right. Hi, everyone. Today we’re going to be talking to you about museums and belonging and how we came to start our work today. We’ll talk to you about the different approaches that our institutions have taken to answer the call of how do we study belonging in museums. We have taken two different approaches, and I hope what you see there is that we land in some of the same spots, even though we came from different directions. But also, I encourage you to think about for your own institutions, what might be a good process for you, should you decide to do this or any study, really.

We’ll then talk about the findings from each of our studies that we have so far, and then we’re looking forward to sharing some future directions as well as engage in discussion with you all, and to share some resources that both of our groups have developed. Sarah, I think it’s you. Oh, nope. Still me. Just kidding. All right. As we’ve thought about belonging, and as we’re getting started in this process and trying to figure out how to begin, we, at least at MSI, I’ll share that we started in the literature, we started in the field of psychology and we looked to higher education, as well, to get us going. Sarah, if you want to share how you all have gotten going.

Sarah Lukowski:

Sure. The field as a whole, we were also inspired by the literature that’s out there as well, so we were looking at studies on psychology and higher education, and really noticing that in the past two decades, museums have started to take up this concept of belonging as well. It really emerged in the early 2000s, with Susanna Eckers Lee’s work, she does some fantastic work on the German Polish border and how folks locate belonging in a history museum there, through their experiences with displacement.

And in the past probably decade or so, we see more and more instances of belonging being incorporated into the museum field. And so, the museum field as a whole has started to structure around various DEAI efforts, and of recent, have started to incorporate belonging into this work as well, whether that’s through broadening leadership to include professionals that actually focus on belonging or adding belonging to a DEAI position or plan. Here on our next slide, we actually have an example of a belonging plan that was recently released by the Toledo Museum of Art. And so, they released a belonging plan. And I’m actually just going to give you a few seconds and just pause with some quiet to give you a chance to read this slide before I highlight some of the pieces here.

As you take a look at this belonging plan, we see the Toledo Museum of Art has laid out a living document, so they’ll update it over time. And one thing that really stands out is belonging is a verb. And I think that that resonates with our work as well, that belonging is something that we are continually working on, and requires, as they say in the statement, intention to address the years of structural exclusion that have led to feelings of a lack of belonging in our institutions as well as feelings of belonging. And as, Toledo says, and Toledo Museum of Art is certainly not alone in this, and that’s what we were interested in. The studies that you’ll hear about today is understanding belonging in other cultural institutions and museums broadly.

Evelyn Christian Ronning:

Next we’re going to be turning to our two studies, and we’re going to be tacking back and forth. And we wanted to start this first bit by really talking to you about the approaches that we took to these studies, so a little bit more of the nuts and the bolts of the studies. And then in the next section we’ll be talking about findings. But before I turn to this, I’d like to call out some of the things that I saw in the chat with regard to how you are seeing belonging. And so, we see a lot of some overlap of some similar words. Things like respect, value, and feeling part of the experience. We see comfort come up quite a bit in your responses. That could be emotional comfort, physical comfort, mental comfort. There’s lots of different ways in which people are describing comfort.

We also see representation coming up in your responses quite a bit. And a lot of this is going to resonate with what you see in the models that we’re going to show you today. And so, you were talking about things like people, “There are people like me,” seeing yourself and going beyond just seeing yourself represented in content, but content that’s not just set in the past, but that continues into the present, and thinking about representation in that kind of way, in that temporal kind of way. Many of you said welcoming or welcome as a way of that you’re thinking about belonging in museums, community. Many of you talked about accessibility in a number of different ways, physical, mental, social, financial content. There were a number of different ways in which you were thinking about belonging, being connected to accessibility. You talked about belonging in emotional ways, in connective ways or feeling connections.

And you also talked about it this being museums, impersibity. There’s this connection between belonging and being able to be immersed in the experience as well. And so, I just wanted to call out, I think that’s really fascinating to see some of the things that you all are writing in the chat. And thank you, keep it up. We love to see those types of things. They help us to think about how to speak and what to say and all of that good stuff. Thank you for your contributions.

All right, well, I’m going to go ahead and start off, pick us off by talking about the Science Museum of Minnesota’s Museums and Inclusion Project, which is a research study. And this section we’re calling Moments That Mattered: Towards A Visitor Centered Understanding Of Belonging In Museum Spaces. And you can go to the next slide, Sarah, to tell you a little bit about our approach.

Our purpose was, as we described at the beginning, we came to this with an understanding of what was out there in the literature. And we felt that in order to be able to really understand belonging, we needed to actually hear from visitors themselves, to help us to operationalize this construct, and really think about it within a museum context, where not a lot of work had been done to operationalize this construct. And so, we were very much interested in hearing from visitors and keeping that visitor focus throughout our study. And so, our purpose there was to really be in alignment through all stages of the study with regard to the experiences of visitors and hold the visitors at the center of that. And we, in our study specifically, focused on the context of science and natural history museums and kept that as, again, the focus of our study sites.

Throughout this presentation, you’ll see photos. These are all photos that come from our study from visitors that contributed to the study and participated in, collaborated with us on this study. And so, each of them, we’ve added captions that don’t even begin to scratch the surface of how visitors are really talking about belonging in very nuanced ways. But we caption them just to give you a little bit of an idea of why visitors might have chosen these photos to represent belonging. Our approach was to work with groups at four different science museum natural history sites, and to invite people to participate through a variety of different means. We were hoping to both access people who had experience with museums, as well as people who did not have a lot of experience with museums. And what we came out with was, for our qualitative study, was 72 groups who participated.

We invited groups of any size that they might typically come to a museum with. And that ended up being about 263 adults, teens, and children. As I’ve already mentioned, we kept a very visitor centered and participant centered approach to this work and really saw this as collaborative. And so, we kept a justice orientation or a justice approach to this by intentionally recruiting participants from historically marginalized groups, particularly to science and natural history museums, by centering visitor voices. We asked them to take photos, we asked them to choose the photos to talk about that would represent belonging for them in their experience at the museum. And essentially, in terms of the study as a whole, to build this definition of belonging for museum spaces from the ground up, from the visitor voices themselves. And so, each photo that you’ll see was taken by a visitor, and they chose that because that photo mattered to their sense of belonging during their visit. Next slide, please.

A little bit about our study. Our study, we, again, invited groups from a variety of different positionalities, backgrounds, and we utilize maximum variation sampling because we wanted to purposefully invite groups with a diversity of characteristics. We wanted our whole sample, our sample as a whole to include individuals that have been typically excluded in STEM. Again given our natural history science museum focus. Specifically, Black, indigenous people of color, women, LGBTQIA plus, and people with disabilities. Wanted to make sure that we had individuals that contained those identities within our sample, as well as what we might consider to be a typical museum goers to a science museum. One thing that you should know in terms of a limitation of our study is that all aspects of the visit were paid for. We didn’t want any hindrances for folks to bring, again, whatever group size that they wanted to the experience. And so, all aspects including the food, the ticketing, parking, et cetera, were comped for individuals participating in the study, and we wanted to make sure that anybody who wanted to participate could. Next slide.

Sarah Lukowski:

Great. As we were selecting a method, in alignment with our justice focused approach, we chose a photo voice method as what we would use within the study. Groups were invited, as Evelyn said, to attend visit in the museum with whoever they would typically come with. We had lots of family groups, but also friend groups. Whoever folks felt like they would visit with is who they came to the museum with that day. They used an iPod touch that we supplied to each of the groups to take photos of moments that matter to their sense of belonging during their visit. They met us in the lobby. We explained that they were going to be taking photos that mattered to their sense of belonging during their visit. They took those cameras off into the museum. This was really important to us as well, because the iPod Touch looks just like any other cell phone, no other staff or visitor in the museum really knew that they were part of a research study. They just looked like any other person in the museum that day, taking photos of their visit.

At the end of their visit, which in general was about two… We asked to stay at least two hours long. Lots of people stayed much longer than that. They came back with all of their photos that they had taken and we conducted an interview with them at that time. That’s the voice part of this photo voice study. Folks were able to choose pictures that highlighted belonging to them, in both positive or negative ways. Individuals chose up to five photos each to talk about in the interview portion, and group members could also talk about each other’s photos or they could all choose the same photo. That was left up to individuals. They picked their photos and they also then showed what emotions they were feeling in that moment as just an initial label that we would dig into deeper.

Whether it was positive or negative was the binary that we first offered to folks. As you can see on the slide here that shows the instrument where folks would fill out the picture number, and then the emotions that they were feeling in that moment. When we were listening to visitors, we found that that binary was not sufficient. That there are moments that are both highly positive and highly negative at the same time, and also moments that are somewhere in between, that it doesn’t feel like one or the other. And so, from this initial measure, we actually allowed that to become more squishy as folks could tell us about those highly positive and highly negative moments, what we later then call bittersweet. A moment where you feel belonging because something about the experience is supported, but you are feeling unsupported in other ways that really complicate that moment for you and what you’re feeling at that time.

In listening to visitors, we were able to understand the moments that mattered to them and also the emotions that they were feeling in that moment that came out through the interview in connecting those moments to a sense of belonging. And as we were doing this, this is our actual first model. The idea was that we were going to come and listen to visitors and come up with a definition of what sense of belonging looks like. And everyone does this. When you submit your grant, you put in your first ideas of what that looks like. And so, I just wanted to share that here. And actually, all of these elements come through to the final model as well.

But we are focusing on moments that matter to visitors, these salient moments in which a sense of belonging is either enhanced or diminished. Generally, we think of those as positive or negative, but I just explained about how they could be somewhere in both. And being that we were located in science and natural history centers, we were focused on the bread and butter STEM outcomes of those sites, STEM engagement, interests and identity, and how those might be changed or enhanced by a feeling of belonging.

Again, all of these are going to come through to our final model, which I’m going to share on the next slide. But because the model which defines how visitors talk about belonging is the results, we’re not going to dig in yet to each of the details. When we get back to sharing findings in just a few minutes, we will go deeper in depth on the model. This is after listening to visitors, our full model. This is aspects of visitor belonging in a science and natural history museum. We see the moments across the visit are still here in the bottom. On the left side, we see visitors interacting in the museum. We see belonging happening in groups in individuals, and we’ll share more what that means in the coming slides. We see that there’s four broad categories in which folks mention or feel belonging. And we’ve labeled those connection to experience, connection to self and group, connection to place, and belonging in the physical space. Again, we’ll have some time in the coming slides to go through what each of these mean.

But what we found is that these moments interact, so they’re dynamic belonging emerges from when these moments collide with one another, as I described earlier, with those high positive and high negative moments at the same time. And so, as we listened to visitors, we were able to piece together this model, which again, is our definition of belonging and the results. We’re going to pause here for questions on our general approach and take any questions that you have in the chat. And then Lauren will also share her approach and their approach at MSI, and then we’ll each share findings in turn as well. We will pause here. If you have a burning question on the approach, the qualitative approach that SMM has taken to studying belonging, we are happy to answer those questions now.

Evelyn Christian Ronning:

That first question that popped up is how we recruited participants. And so, we recruited participants in a number of different ways. As suggested, we did work with three other museums besides our own. And so, we worked with the evaluation and research departments if present in those institutions, and or worked with the community engagement specialists at each of those institutions. And we used typical ways in which they reach out to both communities that are part of their regular communication networks, as well as specific and unique invitations that different departments in their institution might have to specific communities, specific relationships. For our own museum, for example-

… specific relationships. For our own museum, for example, we worked with our museum access and equity group in our museum, and worked with them to reach out particularly to those groups that we wanted to make sure that were included in the sample across all the museums. And so, for example, they have connections with the deaf, hard of hearing community, community listservs where they can post, not advertisements, but invitations like this one, or announcements of special events or things along those lines.

And so there were ways in which we reached out in that way just using social media or email, et cetera. And then we also had particular relationships with community partners where we would reach out and send the invitation to participate in that way. Second question, “Did you get feedback from participants formally or informally about the method?” Sarah, you want to…

Sarah Lukowski:

Sure, I can take that. We did ask participants towards the end of their time in the interview with us about things that they would change about the study, things that worked for them. And so generally we heard that they enjoyed their visits and the photovoice method was something that they were excited about using. It’s hard, I think, once you’ve spent that much time with people for them to give you truly negative feedback. At that point, they’ve spent two hours in the museum, they’ve spent an hour with us, talking about these personal moments in the museum. But overall, we’ve heard that people are excited about… And we are excited about this photovoice method and what it offers for a glimpse at what visitors feel about their experience.

Evelyn Christian Ronning:

Sarah, can you take the next one with regard to did you consult with community groups in the design of the study?

Sarah Lukowski:

Yeah, sure. This is not a direct co-created study design and so we did not have any direct consultation with community groups. We worked mostly, like we said, within museums, with different museum access and equity groups located at the museum sites that we were working with for this study. And then I think we’ll take one more and then we’ll pass it to Lauren just for time and we’ll come back to things that we’ve missed. So Evelyn, do you want to hit one more time on the justice-focused approach?

Evelyn Christian Ronning:

Yeah, that sounds great. So, I think this is a really good point to make, and just to reiterate that the focus that we wanted to take was, given our own in reflection on and thinking about our own positionality as researchers, we really wanted to center the participants in the work. And so it was really important to us at every turn that we are asking and communicating and still communicating into present with participants with regard to findings, sense-making. And so the method itself of photovoice was an intentional way to center their voices rather than utilize a field-wide definition and use that as our grounding principle was to really start with the visitor voice and adapt and change as we went.

And so the study itself, our model, as Sarah showed, shifted actually multiple times. We just showed you two iterations. But really, based on what we were hearing from visitors, that model shifted and changed in response to their statements and their words over time. And so that’s what we mean when we really say that this is coming from the visitor voice and intentionally centering those folks, again, given the sampling strategy that are typically underrepresented in our, at least, science museum and natural history museum populations. And so we’re passing it to Lauren for approaches as well.

Lauren Applebaum:

All right. Well, thanks everyone. Okay. So I’m going to talk to you about the MSI approach to developing the Cultural Institution Belonging Instrument. So that’s been our goal, is to develop an instrument that is [inaudible 00:27:37]. And I do really want to quickly just give a shout-out to Aaron Price. He’s the Senior Director of Research and Education Strategy at MSI. He’s the PI on this grant. I am the project manager and researcher on this, and we have two research assistants, Priscilla Yee and Kalen Sepp, who have contributed to a lot of the work I’m about to show you. All right. Go ahead, Sarah. Thanks.

Okay. I have already talked a little bit about how we used the literature to help us get our process started. But even before we went to the literature, I think the place where we were really coming from and what initiated our process is reflecting on how museums have not historically been places where people feel welcome. Those who do participate tend to come from more privileged backgrounds. And according to a recent ASTC report, 9% of guests were non-white, while 34% of the US population was non-white. And whether or not those numbers have changed from 2017 now, there is good reason to think that we are still off in terms of representation and who comes to our institutions. Next slide.

So, we did go to the literature: psychology, education and policy. And as we’re reflecting on what we found in the literature, we realized that there’s nothing that’s really specific to museums and cultural organizations. And as we think about cultural organizations, we’re thinking about the unique aspects that make us different from looking to laboratories or even the classroom. We have non-linear learning and engagement, high expectations to see something new when you come into our spaces, the social, political and cultural environment of the time, both in terms of how that affects the way that people walk in our doors and also what it is we’re talking about within our spaces. As well as expectation. Word of mouth in terms of maybe we have a new exhibit that people might be excited or not excited to see. Or past experiences. We have an exhibit in our institution where generations of people have seen it before and they expect to have that experience again. And so they’re bringing all of that with them when they walk through our doors. Next slide.

We also started with a model. And one thing we’ll share as we compare and contrast the different approaches that SMM and MSI have taken is that for us, we started with this model and we are still using this model. So, we developed the model looking at the psychology literature, the museum literature, and we also conducted a number of practitioner and researcher interviews. Go ahead. I think there are like three clicks. Yeah. Great. Okay. And so we came to this three-rung model of belonging. And we’re going to start in the middle or the core of our model, which is person fit. And we’re thinking here about whether somebody feels like they are included, they fit in, or they’re excluded, they fit out.

And we adapted this from the general belonging scale. And when we are using this, because we’re going to use a survey to test our model to see how it works, to see how people are responding, we’re going to ask items on a one to seven Likert scale. I’ll go into this in a little bit more detail, but I want to be sure I’m providing some examples. We ask Likert items on a one, strongly disagree, to seven, strongly agree, scale. And so items that are trying to map on to whether somebody feels like they fit in or out, or, “When I was with other guests, I felt included.” That’s the inclusion part. “When I was at the museum, I felt as if people did not care about me.” That’s the exclusion part. And we moved to place belonging, that middle rung. And this is adapted from a place belonging scale by Jammit, 2009. And so for items here, again on a one to seven scale, “When I was at the museum, I felt part of it.” “The museum made me feel like no other place can.”

And then finally, we come to the context. What is the context of a person’s visit? And we couldn’t find anything that really felt like it was measuring the bigger picture. Not just what’s happening inside of our walls, but all that somebody is bringing with them to their visit. And so here we developed our own scale, the Cultural Context Belonging Scale. And this is made up of two factors, a community factor, and we measure or we’re looking at community through questions like, “The museum promoted an equal experience for all.” And then agency. “By being here, I made the museum a better place.” And for those of you who might be familiar with the Bronfenbrenner Ecological Model, this model, similarly, there is no hierarchy here. And we also expect that these are all interacting. The person fit, the place, the context are all interacting within a person at any given time. Next slide. Thanks.

All right. So the survey that we used to measure belonging, again, the Cultural Institution Belonging Instrument, or CIBI, is made up of the three scales that I just referred to that directly measure the three rings, if you will, of our belonging model. And they are on those Likert scales. We also have four open-ended questions: “What does the word belonging mean to you?” “What community or communities were you thinking about when you answered these questions?” “Was there a part of today’s visit that felt particularly relevant to you? If so, what was it?” And then because during pilot testing we saw that people weren’t really giving us much of a deep dive into why it felt relevant, we probe them a little bit with a follow-up of, “What made it relevant for you?”

We also asked a number of demographic and background questions, like folks’ age, gender, racial and ethnic identity, membership, the number of staff interactions they had, the number of prior visits and their zip code. The development of this survey and the process we went through and some of the results for that development can be found in an open access Curator article, Measuring a Sense of Belonging at Museums and Cultural Centers. Maybe when I switch over and pass it over to Minnesota, I will throw that link in the chat and in the folder that I’ll share with you all. You’ll be able to find this and some other material that I’m going to talk about a little bit later today. Next slide.

Okay, so I will pause and take a look at questions. All right. Well, I see it looks overwhelming in terms of questions, so I’m just going to assume that I just answered everything that anyone was thinking about. Evelyn is very insightful. It’s great. All right. I’ll maybe pause for a little while longer and then I’m happy to turn it over to Sarah and Evelyn.

All right. Well, I’m here for another hour, so feel free to pop things into… Here we go. “Did you test the items to make sure they would work for diverse groups?” So, that’s a great question. During the development of the questions, we have not done that for necessarily specific groups. However, this project is part of a larger grant and we will be doing a cross-cultural validation study where we’re going to start looking at those exact questions.

And I think one of the biggest questions is maybe the question we’re asking isn’t necessarily whether it will work, but if people are answering the questions in the same way? And what are the differences that we’re seeing across cultural groups, gender, racial and ethnic identity and sexual orientation are the areas that we’ll be looking at. So that’s a little bit of a post hoc analysis we’ll be doing. Any other questions?

Evelyn Christian Ronning:

Not immediately.

Lauren Applebaum:

All right. I’ll pass it along to you all then.

Evelyn Christian Ronning:

There’s always room, folks, to add questions. And we’ll loop back because we have several pauses.

Sarah Lukowski:

All right. We are going to jump into some key findings now, starting with our findings at Science Museum of Minnesota. So this is the model that I put on the screen before, and we are now going to walk through each piece and how it’s related to the photos as the key findings from this study. So we have here our model, again, Aspects of Visitor Belonging in Science and Natural History Museums, focusing on a few things. So we know that belonging from doing this photovoice study is dependent on the group that you come with. Belonging is felt both at the group and individual level. People bring with them different collections of identities, histories and experiences. And folks respond at that group level as well as at the individual level, and we’ll explain what that means in detail.

Across the visit, moments that matter accumulate, and they accumulate in expected and unexpected ways that delve into a range of emotions, but are centered across four broad categories. And again, we’ll look at each of these in depth: connection to experience, connection to self and group, connection to place and belonging in the physical space. We also say that belonging is actively constructed. So in the physical space, belonging is dynamic and emergent. And we will describe what that means as well in the coming slides.

Evelyn Christian Ronning:

So, the first area that we’ll talk about is the moments of belonging as they happen across the visit. So again, this is what Sarah was just mentioning. And what you see here are actually three pictures from a great number of pictures taken by one group. And we chose these to represent that across all of the groups that we talk with, moments of belonging occurred in moments across the entire visit. So, it can come from an invitation or a sign of welcome as you come through the lobby doors. It can be impacted by a challenging moment in an exhibit hall. And it can be amplified by interaction with a staff member at a staff-led activity.

But that in the series, what you can see is that this group particularly chose photos to represent belonging across their entire visit. And we see how that for them was very positively supported across their visit, from the welcoming and familiar experience of the dinosaur in the lobby to an aesthetically pleasing space for the cafe to an engaging staff-led program in the exhibit hall. And so the majority of moments that matter, we found, happen in exhibit halls, but those moments are intersecting with spaces beyond exhibit halls. And this is a really important point. So a positive moment that may happen in one area combines with negative moments that happen in other areas, like a restroom or in the lobby. And this creates an overall sense of belonging in the museum. And so it’s important to pay attention to the entire visit. Next slide.

Another key finding that we heard from visitors is that belonging is felt at both the group and the individual level. And next slide. What that means is individuals are both speaking for themselves, they’re speaking for their own identities, their interests, engagement and values, but they are also speaking for members of their group or for their group as a whole. And so in this first slide here, belonging is individual. Looks like seeing yourself in an Egyptian visit, which again was the caption that encapsulates a much larger story from this individual about how excited they were to see themselves and feel representation in that particular exhibit. For young people, for children, oftentimes belonging most often comes out as an individual focus. And a lot of it is about things that interest you, as we can see in the right-hand slide. Next slide.

Feeling belonging as a group. So this shows up in a lot of interesting ways. If a particular group member’s identity has not been supported, an entire group will feel that lack of belonging, not necessarily for that individual, but because of that individual’s sense that their identities haven’t been supported. And so that’s on the negative side. And over on the positive side, it’s group experiences that are typical in museum spaces: having fun, engaging with the group that you came with, finding connections that your group is making. All of these lead to a group sense of belonging. Next slide.

Belonging is something, as Sarah said, is really constructed in the experience. So it’s very much dependent on the context. It’s dependent on who’s there that day, what staff members are working, what exhibits are on display. So it’s all of these things and the relationship with the museum writ large. Next slide. So when we say belonging is dynamic and emergent, it means that sense of belonging is shaped across the entire visit. And it’s also reciprocal, which means that museums are not wholly controlling visitors’ sense of belonging. Visitors actually have the agency to co-construct their feelings of belonging and contribute to the belonging of others in the museum space or within their group through their actions. In these two examples from two different groups, we have examples of where community is being formed in the space with other groups. So on the right-hand side, the I Spy was a photo taken by a group that intentionally pulled another group into an experience, an I Spy experience with them, and engaged with another group that they were not at all familiar with.

And one of their comments was how excited they were to leave that exhibit and see that other group still engaging and still participating in that experience. And so they were excited that they had made an impact in the space. And that’s part of that reciprocity that I just was describing. On the left-hand side of your screen, this was from a multi-generational group that came across these structures in their visit. And it resembled a home in Mexico that one group member recognized immediately and said, “I know this.” This is translated. “I know this. This is my ranch, my childhood.” And for the adults in the group, they described belonging in a group sense that they were hearing her act of storytelling that led to their sense of belonging. And talked about how they were very much attached to this moment, that they learned a lot about some member of their own group, they learned more and they were able to connect in that way.

And so it’s really important museum spaces can design for belonging, but also being flexible and adaptive so that people within the space can actively construct spaces of belonging for themselves. Next slide.

Sarah Lukowski:

Great. So the last core piece of the model is the four ways that visitors are defining belonging, so we’ll look at them each in turn. The first is belonging is connected, connections to experience. So these are the ways in which visitors feel belonging through that social experience in the museum space. And it-

Belonging through that social experience in the museum space. And it won’t be surprising to anyone in this audience that museums are designed typically with the social experience of visitors in mind. So what they touch and see and they talk about during their visit, all of that is important to visitors. And is part of what practitioners are thinking about when they design these museum spaces. And that’s reflected back in what visitors talk about as well, as they reflect on their belonging in the space. And so we see examples here of the ways that you’re able to interact as your group, with other groups, and with the staff and volunteers in that space. If there’s support for those interactions, we see positive connections to experience. If there is a lack of support in any of those interactions, including with other visitors or with staff or volunteers. If any of that goes poorly, then there’s going to be a diminished sense of belonging in that space related to connections to the experience.

The next key category is connections to self and your group. And this comes up in two key ways. Seeing your identity represented or a lack of representation in the space. And also seeing your values or a lack of your values being represented in the space. Folks can also see their identities within the space in non-literal ways. So we have in the middle here a picture of an exhibit piece that has two people. The interpretation for this piece actually says that it’s two people that are in a relationship. But lots of people, teenagers that were friends, couples in relationships, lots of people actually took pictures of this exact same piece and saw themselves in this piece. And so there can be literal pieces of representation in the museum space, but there can also be these non-literal pieces where people are constructing for themselves meaning and connections to themselves and their group, throughout the experience.

Belonging is also a connection to place. And visitors had lots of different ideas actually about the scale of what connection to place felt like for them. So in many cases it was the city, or the natural world surrounding the museum. And large windows often were the subject of pictures in this area. So the iconic kind of natural or city scape scenery associated with the wider community was the place in which they were locating their sense of belonging. But this also scaled all the way up to, “I feel belonging because of pictures are the Earth.” Feeling connected to the universe and something much broader than just the city that you live in. And again, all of these can be positive and negative.

So the center picture is actually a regional connection. It shares indigenous place names for the region. So that is a strong positive sense of belonging. But at the same time, one group that had an indigenous identity shared that this was also a negative moment. Because this particular exhibit piece was next to larger exhibit pieces about towboats and other things that were more reminiscent of colonization. And that juxtaposition led to this bittersweet moment of, “I feel represented. I see myself here, I see myself here in place.” But it’s not all positive. “There are things about this experience that also are off-putting to me and make me feel a lack of belonging in the same moment of looking at the map.”

The final category is belonging in the physical space. And this shows up in many different ways. And so belonging in the physical space happens through signage, which might be in multiple languages. Or clear messages of welcome through the aesthetics of the space. Like we looked at before with that cafe space, with the broad expansive windows. Comfort experience in the space. And comfort can be in many categories as well. Whether that’s through seating, as we see here are other sources of support. Accessibility. And accessibility also broadly defined as physical access, but also access for all ages. And I think we had a question before about affordability. So we also, despite paying for the visit, people still did reflect on, “This hall has a fee that I don’t feel like would be accessible for my family if you weren’t paying for it today.” So we did still get reflections on negative feelings. Feelings of exclusion or belonging based on accessibility of fee restricted areas as well.

And so again, you see here echoing what Evelyn was talking about before, that these are happening across the visit as well. So we have an example here from the exhibit halls, the lobby and the restrooms. And again, this might be starting to feel a bit more familiar now, hopefully. But that all goes in, although those visitor stories, pictures goes into this final model once again. That moments that matter are accumulating across a visit. It’s felt by groups, but also individuals through four categories. And those four categories interact with each other. They’re intertwined. But they make up these salient moments that matter, that visitors can reflect on and tell us about their visit experience. And we’ll pause at this point for questions about findings as well. You’re muted, Evelyn.

Evelyn Christian Ronning:

Oh, thank you for that. So we had two questions in the chat. One was about how many times the groups visited the museum for the study. And I did answer that in the chat. But it was, groups visited once for a minimum of two hours. But the visits were often spanned either, for some institutions, it was over the course of a week. For some it was a couple of months. And we did have some groups overlapped during these times. So we had up to four groups in the museum on any given day. And so yeah, the question kind of followed then, if seeing more diverse attendance might affect their feelings of belonging. So I don’t know if you had anything you wanted to add on that, Sarah?

Sarah Lukowski:

So the answer to that part is yes. I don’t know if you answered that in the chat as well. But folks did pay attention to other visitors in the space and responded to the diversity of visitors in the space as an aspect of belonging as well. And it would’ve gone under that category of seeing yourself or your group. Or your values represented in the space broadly. Folks did respond to that as an aspect of belonging as well.

Evelyn Christian Ronning:

And then the next question was just around identifying areas that you’re going to modify and change in your institution based on these learnings moving forward. And so actually we do have a reflection guide that we’re working on and are hoping to have ready soon. And we’ll talk a little bit more about that at the end. But as a way for museum professionals to sort of walk through and evaluate their spaces. For our own museum, yes, we have actually held sort of multiple informational sessions as we were conducting this study. And have already been in conversation with leadership and folks that are doing experience design with regards to the implications for changes to the museum, changes to processes, changes to specific layouts and placement of exhibit pieces in relation to each other.

Sarah Lukowski:

Great. I saw one more question about a belonging score. So we do not have a scoring system for this. It was just sharing positive or negative moments. I think it’s a super interesting question about what’s the threshold of when too many negatives pile up and then it becomes a negative overall visit. I would say from talking with visitors, overall, most groups had positives. Not all groups had negatives. But most also brought up negative moments as well. And even groups that had a higher density of negative moments, I’m thinking in particular a group in which every single adult in the group had some sort of disability. And so there were lots of different places in the museum where their feelings of belonging are challenged. They were very intentional about saying that as a… There were all these challenges throughout the visit, but visiting together as a group fostered a sense of belonging for them. So being together and getting to spend time together was still positive.

And so we don’t have a score or a tipping point at this point where we could tell you that this is where something is more positive or negative. Though we do have these detailed stories that suggest aspects of the museum that support or fail to support belonging.

Evelyn Christian Ronning:

There’s some more questions, but I think we need to leave it there so we can move on. But I’ve noted the questions for later when we have time. Want to pass it to Lauren.

Lauren Applebaum:

All right. Okay. All right. Sarah, can you click through? There’s going to be like the three… There you go. Okay. So here’s your reminder of that model that I talked about earlier, right. With the person fit, that’s inclusion and exclusion, place, belonging, and then context, which is going to have community and agency in it. Okay, go ahead Sarah. So we use that model and the survey as a whole that I mentioned that had three tables. That measured the different aspects of belonging. The open-ended items, the demographic items. And we did not only conduct this work at MSI, but we conducted this work across eight institutions. The eight institutions were made up of a number of art museums. We had a science center, a zoo, and a natural history and anthropological museum as well. And locations ranged from Berkeley, California, and I think we might have been the farthest east. And lots in between.

Across our eight institutions, we had just over 1200 completed surveys. This is made up of 701 women, so definitely more women than men here. 370 men, 24 non-binary folks, 15 gender expansive people. And 15 people who preferred not to say. You can also take a look at the racial and ethnic identity breakdown, where again, not surprisingly… Because we did not do the kind of sampling that Sarah and Evelyn talked about. These were guests who were leaving our institutions and they were recruited either via signage or direct recruitment. So it was just who was ever in our spaces that day.

All right, so again, we see lots of White folks and the rest of the breakdown there. Okay, thanks Sarah. You can go on. There are three findings that I want to highlight during my time today. The first is the relationship between inclusion and exclusion. I’ll also talk about the consistent relationship we found between staff and the number of staff interactions and guests’ sense of belonging. And finally, I’m going to talk about the definition we’re working toward for what belonging means to you. All right, and some consideration. So we’ll start with inclusion and exclusion. This right here, this is a graph of the average scores of each of the five factors. So inclusion and exclusion or that person fit. We have place belonging, and then community and agency, are within the cultural context belonging scale.

And it should hopefully be obvious again on that one to seven. One, strongly disagree… Nope, keep staying there. Thanks. One strongly disagree to seven strongly agree scale that we happily are seeing largely feelings of agreeing with feelings of inclusion and place belonging in community and agency. And feelings of disagreement around feelings of exclusion. So that’s good. Now, one thing we can’t tell from looking at the data in this way is the relationship between inclusion and exclusion, right? Inclusion is up, exclusion is down. That’s what we would expect. However, are they actually two sides of the same coin? If we were to do, what we call reverse coding, and we put exclusion on the same scale as everything else. So we kept the relationship among the numbers the same, but we’re going to flip it, would we… So instead, basically you can think of it as instead of measuring exclusion, we’re saying that people feel less excluded.

If we were to flip it, would we see that these numbers are actually the same? Or not? So that’s what we’re going to do. I’m going to reverse code the numbers. So if somebody said a one, I’m going to assign it a seven, a two is going to be a six. And so on. So if you… Yeah, Sarah, can you go to the next slide? So when we see that reverse coding, that’s all I did here. It should be the same numbers hopefully except for that reverse code, we can see that exclusion pops up. But what we don’t see is that the scores are exactly the same. What we’re actually seeing is that feelings of inclusion are a bit lower than feelings of exclusion. That they feel less excluded than they do feel included. And just as a helpful reminder on the side, more belonging is higher… As a quick guide, that’s how you want to be looking at it.

And so that has us thinking a little bit about why that could be. Why do people feel less excluded, than they do feel included? And, so one thing that I’m thinking about is how in our institutions, whether it’s the people, the space… Because this is really kind of a people-based item. We don’t often have people coming up to others saying, “You don’t belong here.” Or, “You shouldn’t be here.” We don’t have these harsh exclusionary kinds of language. But so they might feel less excluded because of that. But it is not always the case. Maybe the people feel included in everything that’s going on or as included. And that could be whether or not they see other people that look like them in our spaces. That could be just how they feel in just moving around in feelings within crowds and in groups.

And so while we might not be explicitly excluding, we might have some more work to do in terms of how we explicitly include. And so I think that’s something that we might want to be thinking about. All right, Sarah, next slide please. All right, so moving on to the relationship between staff interactions and belonging. We conducted multiple regression analyses to understand the relationship between different factors of belonging. The different factors, and then other factors that might affect it. So in plain language, all I’m trying to say here is that we’re going to take our five factors, that inclusion, exclusion, place belonging, a community and agency. And we’re going to think about them independently. So let’s just talk about inclusion for a second. And we’re going to try to predict when does somebody feel like they have a higher feeling of inclusion? Thinking about gender, right? Is there a difference in gender for, who feels that they feel?

Does gender predict whether or not you’re going to have higher feelings of inclusion or not? So if you’re a woman, are you going to have higher feelings of inclusion? If you’re a man? If you’re non-binary individual? Are your racial and ethnic identity going to affect your levels of feeling of inclusion? The number of visits you’ve had? The number of staff you’ve interacted with? Whether or not you have a membership status? Are any of these, or all of these going to affect if you have different feelings of inclusion? And we’re going to do that for all five of the factors. Okay. When we do that, when we look at that model, what we see consistently is that having more staff interactions relates to higher feelings of belonging. And that’s in inclusion, place belonging, community, and agency. So I leave this to you to think about and reflect on. And I’m happy to think with you during the Q&A, but I think this is something that we’re really interested in.

And just to be clear. When we were asking, we literally asked, “How many staff did you interact with today?” So that could be, for us at MSI, we would have staff at the front maybe greeting you or pointing you to ticketing. Your person you’re interacting with ticketing, there are security guards, there are volunteers on the floor, there are facilitators who are leading programs. We didn’t distinguish among these people. We literally just said, “How many staff did you interact with?” So I think we have lots more questions around that. But I think to me, it’s quite interesting that interacting with people at the museum, specifically staff, was related to higher feelings of belonging. Next slide. Okay.

Now what does the word belonging mean to you? Go ahead, Sarah. I wanted to give you an example. This is a response that we received from one of our surveys. “Belonging means there is freedom for needs to be met, for rest to be experienced, and for love to have space for expression. Often we do not have these things and it is something we must collectively create and move towards.” This was among the more thoughtful responses, I will say. But I think this provides a really nice jumping off point for what people are thinking about when they’re thinking about belonging. Next slide.

All right, so we used an emergent coding system for this open-ended item. Literally was, what does the word belonging mean to you? So people could write whatever it was that they wanted. And so we looked at all the responses and we created categories where we could could fit those responses in. As you can see, we saw an overwhelming number of people talking about ideas of inclusivity and accepting. And even as I marked down some of the ones that you all mentioned that Evelyn read off earlier. Feeling part of. That, which came up today, that would go into inclusive and accepting. So it’s feeling part of, being part of a group. Feeling accepted, feeling included. All of that went into inclusive and accepting. Somewhat interestingly, and I’m still not sure that this is actually part of our question, but I could be convinced otherwise. A lot of people talked about ownership.

They talked about, “It’s something I own.” What does belonging mean to you? “It’s something I own.” And I really didn’t understand that at first. I asked somebody else, I was like, “What are these people talking about?” And so it seems like folks were thinking about belongings. Like this is a belonging of mine. And while that’s not exactly where I thought we were going with this, I think it is quite interesting that that is what was the first thing that came to mind. This was the very first question on our survey. So people hadn’t been primed by what we were thinking about when we were thinking about belonging. We also see some other categories again, that you all mentioned around community. Whether you see people who look like you, who have similar interests to you in the same space. I feel at home, it’s a place where I feel at home. That’s another common one. Friends or family. But overwhelmingly, we saw this inclusive and accepting category be represented. Next slide please.

All right, so this is going to be the one time I’m going to break this down by one of our categories. And so I’m going to look at gender. I’m going to use the women, man and non-binary since those are the categories we had more than 20 folks in each of those categories. And what I think is interesting here is, in particular, if you look at non-binary folks. They don’t necessarily tend to follow the same pattern as other folks we’re seeing. For inclusive and accepting, that’s being driven largely by women and then men. But feelings of comfort and safety were higher for non-binary folks. Feelings of community were also more represented among non-binary folks. And again, just as with racial and ethnic identity, these were not mutually exclusive categories. So you could be coded in more than one category. Your response could be coded in more than one category.

All right, I think that’s it. I’ll talk really quickly about some additional work.

Lauren Applebaum:

I’ll talk really quickly about some additional work and next steps, so this is not where we’re ending. We did complete our cross-institutional study, that’s the data that I’ve talked about just now. We have also talked with a cohort of guests who have never been to museums before. We have a slight caveat, we were doing this in Chicago. Chicago public schools, the vast majority of students in Chicago public schools come to MSI as part of a field trip, so they’ve never been before excludes as a field trip. This was only done with adults, so stay tuned for more on that. As I also mentioned, we’re doing a cross-cultural validation adult survey where we’re going to be talking with adults and having them talk us through the responses that they give.

We’ll look across demographics very intentionally to see if we’re noticing any differences and how folks are thinking about our questions. Are they thinking about them in the same way that we are or do they have really different ideas about what it is we’re talking about? Then finally, we are smack in the middle of piloting a youth version of our survey. It is based off of our adult version, I just did pilot testing last week, so no results for you yet. But we’re really excited, it’s been quite an incredible experience to talk to young folks. We’re talking with young folks 12 to 17. We’ve based it off of the adult survey, but we’ve also already made some adjustments and I expect to make more based on the pilot work. Lots more to come from belonging at MSI.

Evelyn Christian Ronning:

You’ve got a question from, Liz. Are there situations you found that interacting with staff led to lower feelings of belonging?

Lauren Applebaum:

I’d have to go and look, I will say because we were looking at thousands of responses, I largely looked at averages. In terms of the spaces where people could respond, we had at least a couple of opportunities where people could have alluded to things that did not make them feel good in this space. Although it wasn’t directly asked, we did not see any negative experiences interacting with staff. But again, we didn’t necessarily ask the specific question either. I would have to go and look at the data to see if we saw explicitly negative responses, but overall, we saw the positive.

Evelyn Christian Ronning:

Cool. You’ve got another question, you may have sort of touched on this already from Alex about did you find that those other factors, race, ethnicity, gender, LGBTQ+ identity, did not have a relationship to feelings of belonging?

Lauren Applebaum:

We did find relationships with the other factors. I will say they switched around depending on the factor. They weren’t necessarily as consistent as with staff interactions where we consistently found this higher relationship. Even so, an increase in staff interactions was related to a higher senses of belonging. Even with exclusion, that wasn’t on the list of where we saw our relationship, just there wasn’t one, it wasn’t necessarily negative. In terms of some of the other categories, like I said, for some it would go up, for some it would go down.

We definitely did see them. I will say for racial and ethnic identity, we saw some fairly consistently lower scores for Asian folks across the board. Identifying as Asian was related to lower scores of belonging on a number of our factors. Keep in mind there are all kinds of reasons that this could be, and so these are just hypotheses, but we were collecting this data around COVID time. I think there were a lot of misplaced feelings involving Asian-identifying folks. It’s unclear if that might have affected it, along with just general representation in our spaces. We did see some of that and then up and down for the other ones.

Evelyn Christian Ronning:

Cool. Great, so I think we’re going to move forward. I’ll start and then, Lauren, feel free to jump in.

Lauren Applebaum:


Evelyn Christian Ronning:

Hopefully you’ve already seen some interesting comparisons and some similarities that we can make across these two models. One of those, of course, is that we see that components of belonging, however described, can be activated simultaneously. That’s what we mean when we say belonging is very nuanced. There can be multiple things happening at the same time, that it’s really important to think about visitor belonging across an entire experience. From the SMM side, you saw that we were focused on particular moments and really asking visitors to hone in on those very specific moments so we could get detailed qualitative information. But you can see reflected in both of the studies that we were looking across an entire museum visit as well. Then from the differences from the Science Museum of Minnesota side that our study approach was different from MSIs size in terms of being a bottom up focused study grounded in visitor voice and informed by the literature. Lauren, I’ll pass to you.

Lauren Applebaum:

Just to again highlight where we have these similarities, again, the components can be activated simultaneously. This isn’t a hierarchy and it’s not an either or for our belonging model. You can feel excluded but also feel like this is a space for you, you can feel included, you can feel like there’s a community here for you. All these things can be activated simultaneously, you can even feel included and excluded at the same time I would argue. This is intended to encompass the visitor belonging and cross an entire museum experience. We have a little bit more of a top-down model where we’re looking at the literature and then we’re going to apply that model to guess and have them answer the questions based on the model that we came with, which is based on conversations and the literature and all kinds of other resources.

Evelyn Christian Ronning:

Great. We have a few things to share with you, so next slide. On our end, Lauren and Sarah will be at AAM. There’s a session and here it is. If you are going to AAM this year, please check that out. Science Museum has a forthcoming article in the fall ’23 issue of Exhibition where we describe in detail the study. Then lastly, I’m going to drop in the chat a link to a collaborative drive that we started way back at the beginning of the study where we were having conversations with many of you that are here today, folks that we’re interested in belonging and we’re interested in thinking about belonging in more depth. We started a collaborative drive that we encourage you to check out, it has some resources, some literature sources, and more will be added as we produce our reflective guide, for example, and certainly we’ll add the slides from this presentation as well. Then I’ll pass to Lauren for resources as well.

Lauren Applebaum:

As I promised, I am also going to drop a link to a Google… There’s the Google Drive with the Science Museum of Minnesota, and then there’s also, I think this is a different one, this is going to be a Google Drive that will have access to all the stuff that you see here. The survey in PDF and Word form, we also have an article that you can look at. I think that should be… Yeah, research background article, that’s the curator article I mentioned earlier. Then this is something I’m really excited about, this is our toolkit, these examples you see here. The toolkit was designed to save you all time to do… I basically did the annoying parts of the analysis for you so you could just look at the fun stuff. If you were to run this survey at your own institution, you can use our [inaudible 01:19:04] toolkit. What the toolkit will do for you is it will do some basic cleaning of the data, it will also create average scores for a number of the items and produce averages in graphs.

I’m hoping this is going to work, I have for the first time ever, a video example for you. Sarah, if you wouldn’t mind playing that? The toolkit is in Excel and this is what it looks like, so in this tab we have all of the data that you could enter. I’m highlighting, you can’t see here, but it’s the number eight that I’m trying to point out here. Because in our data we have those Likert scales that are one to seven, but an eight is that they don’t understand. But we don’t actually want to average eights in our one to seven, so we’re going to change those to do not understands, and by clicking that button, you can do that. This next button is going to reverse code all of those exclusion items so that they can be on the same scale as the others. Again, I apologize, the numbers are really small so you can’t see them, but the gray highlighted ones are the reverse codes. This is the GBS average that has just been calculated by clicking that button.

These are the inclusion items, so you can look at it by factor. Then these are the average of the exclusion items. There, there are the exclusion items, all averaged. Then you can see buttons for all of the other tables. But for the sake of time, I’m going to just jump over and show you that on the next tab you can calculate average scores and there will be graphs that automatically get created for you. Those graphs aren’t really represented because I haven’t gone through the whole toolkit, but you can get an idea of what the toolkit is able to do. I’ve gotten some really nice feedback from folks who have already used the toolkit and I have started updating it, so the next version, I hope, I hope, I hope I will be out maybe ideally by the end of this week, but hopefully within the next few weeks. Yes, I am also excited.

I am still excited to use the toolkit because anytime we get new data, I can just put it in that toolkit and I don’t have to do some of the back and forth work of doing the negative coding and calculating the averages, I can just click a button. I hope you all are excited about it. I do want to really quickly respond to another question I saw in the chat about a youth version of the survey and how can you follow the development of the youth version of the survey? I certainly expect to be talking about it at conferences and things like that. But also, feel free to send me an email and I’ll put together a list of folks who want to stay updated and do the best I can with sharing that. I think on the last slide you’ll be able to see our email addresses. Then I’ll just take this really last one, would this be good for a smaller institution as well as larger ones?

Actually, we had smaller institutions in mind when we made this toolkit. Because as much as I am saying how some of the data analysis spits can be a little bit annoying because they’re tedious, but this was really made with you folks in mind. Folks who likely don’t have the capacity because you have a hundred jobs and evaluation is maybe one of them. For those who don’t have the capacity or for those who just want to save some time, this toolkit is exactly for you. There is a guide to it to walk you through what everything is saying and what it’s telling you. But of course, feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions, but this is part of ideally making our survey accessible for you all to actually use and implement in your institutions.

Evelyn Christian Ronning:

Well, we’re happy to entertain further questions or comments, but we’re getting close to the end of our time so we can check out and see if there’s additional questions that folks have or respond to some of the others. I think one of the questions that was earlier that we didn’t get a chance to respond to is applicable to both of our studies, which are, are there findings from these studies that were surprises to us as researchers and evaluators? I would say, I’ll answer for myself and give my colleagues here a chance to think, that I think the nuance of what visitors were telling us, how they were thinking about belonging is probably the most surprising thing to me.

Particularly, I’ll use as an example, the place focused sense of belonging where we had in our study folks talking about place in terms of the local region, location, the cityscape, as Sarah was saying, or the natural environment. It was that it was the actual place of the museum and it was this larger universal sense of place and a commonality or a common unity amongst all people reflected in photos that folks took of Earth. Those patterns, we saw those across museums and across different groups, so that was very surprising to me. How about from either of you, any findings that were surprising?

Lauren Applebaum:

I’ll jump in quick. I mentioned I think people responding to what does the word belonging mean to you? That it was a belonging [inaudible 01:25:29]. That was maybe more surprising just because that’s just not how I was conceiving of the question, and yet it was the way that a number of folks really thought about it. But on another end, you all had asked about some differences among other categories, racial and ethnic identity being one of them in terms of the relationship between their identity and the belonging factors. We saw a number of instances where Latinx folks, the Latino, Hispanic, Latinx folks, felt a higher sense of belonging in a number of our categories. I think I did not necessarily expect to see those results. It would be like white folks feel a higher sense of belonging and these… Identifying as white or identifying as Latino or Hispanic related to a higher sense of belonging in certain situations.

We have reflected a little bit on that, but not a ton. We have had the National Museum of Mexican Art was one of our partners, so we did have a space that was quite focused on that community, but that was one out of our eight institutions. I’m curious to look into that a little bit more. I’m excited by it, but also, I think this is where some of our cultural validation process is going to be good because we’re going to talk to people. We haven’t done that deep talking to people yet, and I think as we start exploring some of these differences that we’re seeing, it’ll be really important for us to tease apart what makes folks feel like they belong in these spaces. Because I think right now we’re hearing a lot of positive things, but I have a feeling if sat down and talked to folks, we might get a little bit more nuance, so I’m excited to adventure there.

Sarah Lukowski:

Just to wrap it up, I would say this is my first time doing a photo voice study, so it was very enlightening to use that approach. I’m also very invigorated by it and I think that hearing visitor stories through their photos was really exciting. I didn’t know going into it exactly what we would be able to get and how deep we would be able to go with those stories, so just the variety of stories that we were able to uncover with that method was exciting to me.

Ann Atwood:

Well, I want to thank everybody for joining us today. It has been wonderful hearing about both these projects, we look forward to hearing more in the future as you continue your work. I hope everybody has a great afternoon. Thank you so much for joining us.

Lauren Applebaum:

Thanks all.

Evelyn Christian Ronning:

Thank you.

AAM Member-Only Content

AAM Members get exclusive access to premium digital content including:

  • Featured articles from Museum magazine
  • Access to more than 1,500 resource listings from the Resource Center
  • Tools, reports, and templates for equipping your work in museums
Log In

We're Sorry

Your current membership level does not allow you to access this content.

Upgrade Your Membership


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to Field Notes!

Packed with stories and insights for museum people, Field Notes is delivered to your inbox every Monday. Once you've completed the form below, confirm your subscription in the email sent to you.

If you are a current AAM member, please sign-up using the email address associated with your account.

Are you a museum professional?

Are you a current AAM member?

Success! Now check your email to confirm your subscription, and please add to your safe sender list.