Summative Evaluation of Mathematica: A World of Numbers and Beyond

Posted June 3, 2014

Summative Evaluation of Mathematica: A World of Numbers and Beyond  includes Tracking and Timing, Exit Surveys, Exit Interviews, Component Observations, and a case
study, which were conducted at the Boston Museum of Science to determine how audiences today respond to the 1961 exhibition by the Office of Charles and Ray Eames.

Summative Evaluation of Mathematica: A World of Numbers and Beyond was written in 2004 by Wendy Constantine, as a Harvard University graduate student in Museum Studies.

Prepared for the Boston Museum of Science
by Wendy Constantine, Daniel Elias, Gwen Frankfeldt,
Abby Haskell, Bronwyn Low and Lesley Schoenfeld

Read an excerpt from Summative Evaluation below, or click here to read see the entire paper.
 


Abstract

The compact and elegantly designed exhibition Mathematica: A World of Numbers and Beyond
continues to draw in and engage a wide range of visitors four decades after its initial design
was established by the now infamous designing duo, Charles and Ray Eames. The near
dizzying array of information presented, combined with the abstract subject matter
presented, resulted in some interesting patterns in visitor behavior. Most notably, a great
dichotomy was revealed in the types of exhibits visitors were drawn to and spent the most
time.

Tracking and Timing, Exit Surveys, Exit Interviews, Component Observations and a case
study were conducted at the Boston Museum of Science to determine how audiences today
respond to the dated exhibition. This information may be useful to assess whether or not
changes or updates should be made to the content or visitor experience in general. This
report will focus on the Tracking and Timing results and correlate the data from other
instruments when appropriate.

50 visitors were tracked and timed for a total of 8 hours. Given the relatively intimate scale
(approx. 3200 sq. ft.) and number of components (12) in Mathematica, compared to most
science museum exhibitions, it is not too surprising that the Sweep Rate Index (SRI) was
lower than average at 336.8.1 This indicates that visitors spent more time per square footage

than the average science museum exhibition. On average, visitors spent 9.5 minutes in the
exhibition. There were also an extremely high percentage of diligent visitors (46%) than the
average for science museums (13.5%), indicating that almost half of all visitors stopped at
50% or more of the components.2

Tracking and Timing demographic data revealed that visitors were primarily Female (56%),
visited in Family Groups (52%) or Adults Alone (20%), and either in the 31-40 yr. age group
(36%) or 20-30 yr. age group (20%). Family Groups spent the most amount of time in the
exhibition (9.5 minutes), with children aged 10-12 spending the most time (11.4 minutes).
Gender did not play a significant role in predicting visitor behavior.