For this project we had to investigate and research how we can make the National Museum of Cardiff more appealing to students in Higher Education. I engaged in research methodologies which helped me develop my independent research and analytical skills. To aid me in my research I used several methodologies. These include: Interviewing, Journey Mapping, Questionnaires, Semiotics and Ethnography.
To begin my research, I started with the methodology of interviewing. I carried out my interviews as a group of three. We each interviewed around six to seven people and received responses from a total of twenty students in university. We asked them a few personal questions to get a better understanding of our sample and to ensure a better range of individuals, in terms of their interests. Some of these questions include: “How old are you?” and “What are you studying at University?”. From our results we found that the majority of our sample were aged either 18 or 19 with the one 21-year-old. There was also a fair ratio of male and female with 11 males and 9 females. To add to this, we found that the students we interviewed studied a range of subjects in university. Some of these subjects include: Optometry, Illustration, Product Design, Politics and Economics, Architecture, Mathematics, Photography, Computer Science etc. The locations of these interviews took place in large student hotspots such as student flats, the shopping centre and the Student Union so finding appropriate samples to interview was fairly easy. We then proceeded to ask them more questions related to the National Museum of Cardiff. From our interviews we learned that 13 people had been to the museum while 7 have not, as seen in Figure 1. This already gave me an idea of the percentage of young people that visit the museum. We found that those that had been to the museum had mixed feelings about it. Some found the exhibits and paintings cool and interesting while others found it boring and forgettable. One student said that they, “Enjoyed it a lot. Very informative and interesting” (Clarke, 2019) while another said that it was, “Quite boring. I feel like it needs to be modernized for our digital age” (Stretton, 2019). Those who hadn’t been to the museum weren’t sure what was inside because, “It isn’t very well advertised unlike London’s museums.” (Davies, 2019) and “there’s not much promotion or posters on the exterior so I’m not really interested in going in there.” (Jones, 2019).
We then learned that the students we sampled visit the museum at varying frequencies. The majority visit the museum 1 – 2 times a year while some visit less frequently and some hardly visit anymore, as seen in Figure 2. To get a better understanding as to what exhibits attracted the most attention we asked students what exhibitions in particular they enjoyed. The general conclusion we came to gave us three responses. Crystals and Gemstones area, Nature and Dinosaur section (Mainly the big animal displays like the Mammoth, Shark and stuffed animals) and the Art Gallery and Sculptures. This information could prove vital because the museum can use this data to expand and improve these sections to attract even more students because from the results we can see they are a talking point. We then found that a large amount of our sample would like to learn with interactive technology as well as reading, as seen in Figure 3. This data could prove to be useful because people learn and take in information in different ways. By using this information, the museum can implement more ways to learn about the exhibits and this way they would be catering to a larger audience and educating more people. Next we learned students would like a variety of new sections added. Some of these include: Football and Sport history, more Contemporary Art, section about Future Advancements, Black History etc.
To conclude, we found out that the majority of students didn’t mind seeing homeless people around the museum but there were a few who were put off with one saying, “It would put you off if they were at the entrance.” (Brookes, 2019). And finally, when asked if they would find social media implementation useful we learned that 100% of our sample used social media and they all agreed it would be a great idea. From these responses we learned that the museum should improve the promotion of their events and new exhibits in order to attract a larger audience which, from our research we learned, can be young people in higher education. They should also consider other forms of presenting information to the visitors such as through interactive technology and audio because different people learn in different ways.
To better understand student’s journeys through the museum I made some journey maps. The first journey map I created was based on my visit to the museum with the rest of the class, as seen in Figure 4. I started my journey by leaving St David’s shopping centre and reached the museum 10 minutes later. Once inside I waited in the large lobby and took pictures of the grand architecture. We then listened to the museum curator explain the brief. After this we walked around the museum and discussed the meaning and history behind different pieces. I took pictures of these pieces as we walked along. We then entered the children’s workshop area of the museum where there was a workshop to educate kids about worms. In this area we took notice to how different information is presented and the layout of signs compared to the rest of the museum. We then filled in a survey, went back to the lobby for some refreshments and then left the museum at 3:30 pm.
I then produced two more journey maps. Both were based around my friends’ journeys to the museum. My first friend’s, Jade, journey can be seen in Figure 5. She visited the nature section first and took pictures of the dinosaurs and other animals. Shen then walked upstairs and saw all the paintings. She was surprised to see some new ones she hadn’t seen before. She said, “There was no promo for it outside” (Jones, 2019). She then went back down to the café and had some refreshments. And finally, before she left, she visited the gift shop and bought some crystals.
The next journey map of my friend, Lily, can be seen in Figure 6. It starts with her viewing the sculptures. She then picked up a foldable chair and sat down in front of one of the sculptures. She began to draw the piece. As she sketched she had small conversations with other visitors of the museum, as they passed by, about her art. She then finished the sketch and returned the chair. On her way out she visited the gift shop but did not buy anything as she felt the products were slightly overpriced.
From journey mapping I once again learned that the museum must consider more and better promotion of their new exhibits and events because without this exposure they will not attract as many people as they should. They could also reconsider the prices of items in the gift shop if they would like more people to buy gifts but I don’t think this plays a major part in whether young people are interested in visiting the museum or not.
I used questionnaires as a form of collecting research. I asked my sample some basic questions to begin with. From the responses I learned that six people were 18 years old, two people were 19 years old and two people were 20 years old. 5 of them were male and 5 were female. Of the 10 students, eight are studying Graphic Communication, one of them is studying Mathematics and another is studying Optometry. 100% of my sample had been to the museum before so they were suitable candidates. The first question was ‘What are your thoughts on the museum if you have been/if not, why is this?’. I found that the students found the museum to be “old and dated” (Anon., 2019) but some did enjoy the art galleries. I then wanted to find out their thoughts on the new exhibits so I asked them ‘What do you think about the new exhibits/sections, such as Dippy and Mission: Planet Earth, the museum has started hosting?’. I received mixed responses. Some said exhibits like Dippy were “very interesting” (Anon., 2019) and it’s positive that the museum is changing things up because it, “Gives people who’ve been to the museum before a reason to return”. (Anon., 2019) Others however were not aware of the new exhibits due to lack of promotion. The next question was, ‘Would you visit the museum more/ be more interested in visiting the museum if they regularly had new different exhibits on display?’. From my results I learned 100% of them would be interested in returning to the museum regularly to view the new exhibits. The next question was to see if they preferred to see more exhibits based on past history, modern topics or future advancements? I found out that 60% of them preferred modern topics, 40% preferred topics on future advancements while 0% wanted topics on past history, as seen in Figure 7. Next I wanted to find out if they would engage more or less with the museum if social media and modern technologies were to be implemented. 9 people said they would definitely engage more with the museum. One said, “I think it’s something that young people might find more fascinating. I am fascinated by that topic myself. It’s always good to have more added themed options in the museum.” (Anon., 2019) However, another said young people, like themselves “will only be drawn to things that interest them personally and the people around them” (Anon., 2019) And finally I wanted to see if students found it easy to navigate the museum or if they found it confusing. To conclude the questionnaire results I found that 100% of my sample found it confusing to navigate the museum.
In the book ‘Semiotics: The Basics’, Daniel Chandler states that semiotics “involves the study not only of what we refer to as ‘signs’ in everyday speech, but of anything which ‘stands for’ something else.” (Chandler, 2017) He goes on to say that, “signs take the form of words, images, sounds, gestures and objects”. (Chandler, 2017) Therefore, to better understand signage’s effect on people’s feelings, I visited the museum to take note of the signs present. From previous research I learned that 100% of my sample found it confusing to navigate the museum so I wanted to investigate further.
I noticed signs of promotion outside the museum. There were several posters advertising Dippy the dinosaur and a few advertising other exhibits. However, the whole front of the museum was covered in scaffolding which has connotations of the museum being ‘unfinished’ which could deter the public from visiting because they assume it’s not open or under renovation. These posters were also quite small and you would have to be quite close to them to read and understand what they were advertising. I also failed to see any of these posters in surrounding places to the museum as they only seemed to be around the museum itself. The museum should consider placing these posters around town and other areas to attract more people because if they aren’t in the museum’s vicinity they will not realise there are new events. From studying the museum’s website, I found they do not have a logo. Therefore, they do not have a visual graphic/image to identify themselves to the public. This could be a reason the museum find it difficult to be recognised universally around the town centre.
Once inside I immediately noticed the sign post in the middle of the lobby, as seen in Figure 10. This sign post provided directions towards the Dippy shop, the new exhibition Mission Planet Earth, the toilets, the restaurant and the photography exhibitions. This sign post was well positioned in the middle of the lobby and it was also had 4 sides, all of which had the directions to these places so you could look and see the directions to these places regardless of where you were looking at the sign from. I also saw there was further signage, as seen in Figure 11, outside the doors showing what sections were ahead in case a visitor did not see the sign post in the middle of the lobby or came from a different direction.
However, I also noticed the same signs outside the museum being used inside. For example, I noticed the poster advertising Dippy near the actual exhibit of the dinosaur, as seen in Figure 12. Because of this I think the museum should reconsider what they advertise inside the museum and how they use their posters and banners.
According to Spotless, “Ethnographic research is a qualitative method where researchers observe and/or interact with a study’s participants in their real-life environment.” (Spotless Interactive, n.d.)Therefore, to get a better glimpse of people’s experiences in the museum I carried out some ethnographic research. I visited the museum on a Tuesday at around 11 am. There were visitors from a wide range of age groups and nationalities. Firstly, I studied a group of South African students who were visiting the museum, as seen in Figure 13. From their conversations I learned they spoke Afrikaans but also English. From further observation I learned that the signage present clearly indicated to them what section is in what direction and what information corresponded to what piece. I also studied a middle aged couple as they traversed the museum, as seen in Figure 14. Through observation I learned that they found it a bit more confusing to navigate the museum. They found trouble finding out where a certain section was and they had to ask one of the museum staff for directions because there were “no maps nearby”. (Anon., 2019) They also attempted to find a map of the museum on the website but were unsuccessful because the website does not have a map available. Furthermore, when they were finished viewing the galleries upstairs they began to walk down the east stairs only to stop halfway because they thought they couldn’t walk down from those stairs because the museum café is right at the bottom. Therefore, they walked back up the stairs and all the way around to the west stairs before exiting the museum.
To conclude, the National Museum of Cardiff can do several things to attract more higher education students. From my research I learned that a lot of students who haven’t visited the museum aren’t aware of what’s inside. The museum should focus on promoting themselves on social media because I learned that 100% of my interviewing sample uses social media. Therefore, if the museum created a better online presence they would reach a wider audience. The museum should also consider are the choice of exhibits and sections. From my research I learned that students would much prefer sections based on modern topics and future advancements. These new sections would be more relevant to today’s day and age and therefore the younger generation would be more interested. And finally the museum should consider signage and layout within the museum. Certain promotional banners and posters are unnecessarily displayed near the actual exhibit they are promoting. They could display directions and promote other, maybe less visited, parts of the museum. They should also maybe consider the placement of the café due to its close vicinity to the east stairs. This positioning puts off visitors coming down these stairs because they think they can exit through there or feel awkward walking past the café goers.
- Clarke, T. (2019) How can we make the National Museum of Cardiff appeal more to students in higher education?
- David, J. (2019) ‘Have you been to the museum?’ [Graph]
- Stretton, L. (2019) How can we make the National Museum of Cardiff appeal more to students in higher education?
- Davies, T. (2019) How can we make the National Museum of Cardiff appeal more to students in higher education?
- Jones, J. (2019) How can we make the National Museum of Cardiff appeal more to students in higher education?
- David, J. (2019) ‘How often do you visit the museum’ chart [Graph]
- David, J. (2019) ‘How would you like to learn about subjects in the museum’ chart [Graph]
- Brookes, W. (2019) How can we make the National Museum of Cardiff appeal more to students in higher education?
- David, J. (2019) [Journey Map]
- Jones, J. (2019) [Journey Map]
- Jones, J. (2019) Journey through the museum
- Evans, L. (2019) [Journey Map]
- Anonymous respondent A, (2019) What can be done to the National Museum of Cardiff to further appeal to students in higher education?
- Anonymous respondent B, (2019) What can be done to the National Museum of Cardiff to further appeal to students in higher education?
- Anonymous respondent C, (2019) What can be done to the National Museum of Cardiff to further appeal to students in higher education?
- Anonymous respondent D, (2019) What can be done to the National Museum of Cardiff to further appeal to students in higher education?
- Anonymous respondent E, (2019) What can be done to the National Museum of Cardiff to further appeal to students in higher education?
- Chandler, D. (2017) Semiotics: The Basics
- Chandler, D. (2017) Semiotics: The Basics
- David, J. (2019) [Museum Exterior]
- David, J. (2019) [Advertising outside the museum]
- David, J. (2019) [Cuboid Signpost]
- David, J. (2019) [Signpost]
- David, J. (2019) [Dippy Promotional Banner]
- Spotless Interactive (2019) Available at: https://www.spotless.co.uk/insights/ethnography-when-and-how/ (Accessed: 10 December 2019).
- David, J. (2019) [South African Students]
- Middle aged woman (2019) Visitors at the museum
- David, J. (2019) [Middle aged couple]