Over the past couple of weeks we’ve been asking visitors to the museum what their favourite object is. Initially this has been through the very old school way of chalk and blackboards! (I don’t think they even use them in schools anymore….) We used two blackboards, one in the foyer of the museum next to our ‘Welcome Wall’, the other was outside Main Gallery Two where the comments book is. The aim of the experiment was to see if and how the blackboards were used, and to compile a list of top 10 objects in the museum.
From 26 June – 11 July we had 114 comments. Two thirds of all the comments were made on the blackboard outside Main Gallery Two. In fact, in the first six days of the experiment, only two comments were made on the blackboard in the foyer. There are possibly a couple of reasons for this. Firstly, the blackboard outside Main Gallery Two is placed directly after visitors have gone round the museum so the objects will be fresher in their minds. It is also placed within a ‘have your say’ section, including a video booth and a comments book, providing a context to initiate feedback. The blackboard in the foyer is placed when visitors enter the museum, so they are less likely to have an opinion (unless they have visited the museum before, or perhaps only visited the gallery spaces on the ground floor). The foyer area is also more ‘exposed’ – it is in direct view of the information desk – so perhaps visitors are less comfortable leaving comments when they are being observed.
Only 35% of all the comments were suggestions of favourite objects. Interestingly the favourite object (with six votes) was the jukebox, and an additional three votes were for specific songs on the jukebox. As we didn’t ask why people had a favourite object it’s difficult to know if it’s because the jukebox is the final display, because it is interactive or just because our visitors enjoy a song and dance.
Visitors definitely enjoyed making their mark on the museum and 28% of all comments were their own names! Some comments were incomprehensible, either because they were written in another language, or because they simply made no sense! Other comments were a bit silly, “For King Stark!”, but others engaged in debate, “should be more about the migrants’ contributions”.
Special mention goes to our Gallery Assistants who got two votes as our visitors’ favourite object. Not wanting to objectify them, but one of the comments actually said “the sexy attendant”, which no one has admitted to writing!
A couple of interesting notes:
1) One of our Gallery Assistants observed a visitor writing ‘Labour Posters’ on the upstairs blackboard. Almost immediately, the next visitor leaving Main Gallery Two added ‘+1’ to the comment. The next person then wrote ‘Get Labour Out’. I’d definitely like to explore further how we can provide a forum for debate and find ways for visitors to interact with each other after being inspired by our stories and collections.
2) I came back from lunch one day and noticed that the blackboard in the foyer had been wiped clean. Apparently we’d had a large group of creative five year olds come in and draw all over the blackboard. Obviously I didn’t want the moment to go unrecorded (as I wanted to see how the blackboards were used as much as what was written on them), so I asked my colleague Mark to recreate the masterpiece:
For the next stage of the experiment we will be using post it notes to see if a change of medium makes a difference. We’ll keep you updated!