Beverly Serrell, a pioneer in tracking museum visitors (or stalking them, as some of us like to say), has just released a nice report on the Center for the Advancement of Informal Science Education (CAISE) web site. In “Paying More Attention to Paying Attention,” Serrell describes the growing use of metrics she calls tracking and timing (T&T) in the museum field since the publication of her book on the topic in 1998. As the field has more widely adopted these T&T strategies, Serrell has continued her work doing meta-analysis of these studies and has developed a system to describe some of the main implications of the summed findings for exhibition design.

I’ll leave you to read the details, but it really drove home to me the potential excitement and importance of the cyberlab’s tracking setup. Especially for smaller museums that have minimal staff, implementing an automatic tracking schemes, even on a temporary basis, could save a lot of person-hours in collecting this simple, yet vital data about exhibition and exhibit element use. It could allow more data collection of this type in the prototyping stages, especially, which might yield important data on the optimum density of exhibit pieces before a full exhibition is installed. On the other hand, if we can’t get it to work, or our automated design proves ridiculously unwieldy (stay tuned for some upcoming posts on our plans for 100 cameras in our relatively-small 15000 square foot space), it will only affirm the need for good literal legwork that Serrell also notes is a great introduction to research for aspiring practicioners. In any case, the eye tracking as an additional layer of information that we use to help explain engagement and interest in particular exhibit pieces might lead eventually to a measure that lends more insight into Serrell’s Thorough Use.

(Thanks to the Museum Education Monitor and Jen Wyld for the tip about this report.)