More than 50 zoo, aquarium and museum professionals woke up early this morning, with many waiting in what may have been the world's slowest Starbucks line, in order to attend a session at the annual meeting of the American Alliance of Museums that centered on the application of The Ocean Project's message research at three partner institutions.
The session, "Understanding Museum Audiences, Inspiring Public Engagement and Environmental Stewardship," was very much in keeping with the meeting's theme, "The Power of Story." After I provided a brief overview of the research, attentions turned to Mark Swingle of the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center, Sandra Pitts of the Fresno Chaffee Zoo and Wei Ying Wong of the Philadelphia Zoo, who each offered an example of how their institutions have been incorporating some of the findings into their priorities and programs.
Mark presented the positive results of a pilot project his aquarium implemented around the idea that visitors would welcome information about how they could help conserve the ocean, in this case by reducing litter and increasing recycling so as to help address the problem of marine debris. Sandra relayed an equally positive experience, though in her case it was related to the research finding about the importance of engaging youth, including, specifically, youth from ESL (English-as-a-second-language) households. And last but not least, Wei Ying picked up the latter topic to talk about current and future efforts to reach a more diverse audience at the Philadelphia Zoo, emphasizing that this was not only the right thing to do, but good for the institution too. A theme within the Q&A that followed was the importance of sharing successes and lessons learned, and I know Mark, Sandy, Wei Ying and I all hope that our session was a step in this direction, and I look forward to learning more from others as the conference continues.
Copies of the presentations, as well as, we're told, a complete audio recording of the session, soon will be available at the meeting website. If you attended the session we'd love to hear what you thought.