Up next is a very specialized, very important group: the Visitor Studies Association.
The VSA, in its own words,
is today’s premier professional organization focusing on all facets of the visitor experience in museums, zoos, nature centers, visitor centers, historic sites, parks and other informal learning settings. We’re committed to understanding and enhancing visitor experiences in informal learning settings through research, evaluation, and dialogue.
There are a couple of different levels of membership: full is $100, basic is $60, and student is $30. The good news is, all three of those memberships receive the organization’s journal, Visitor Studies: Theory, Research, and Practice, as well as a bi-monthly email newsletter. The full membership gets a few more perks like a printed member directory and discounts on conferences and workshops.
The 24th annual Visitor Services Association Conference is being held in Chicago this July, and they’re very generous with financial assistance for students – check it out. At least one of the deadlines for a scholarship is coming up fast, though – March 1 – so you’ll need to hurry up if you want to take advantage of that.
They’ve got some great resources available on their website, including Evaluation Competencies, which is basically an online course for continuing education in visitor studies. It’s got a good bibliography for anyone who’s interested in learning more about being more responsive to visitors, and evaluating visitor experiences. There’s also a good collection of readings about ethical guidelines for evaluators, a good links page, and a fantastic archive of past VSA publications.
We learn a lot in our classes at Tufts about how important it is to constantly assess the impact museums have on visitors, both in the immediate and the long-term. This is an organization that’s doing great work to provide us all with more resources about best practices in that field – and who knows, it may be your calling within the museum field.