Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

A phenomenological investigation of science center exhibition developers' expertise development
by Young, Denise L., Ed.D., The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2012, 174; 3523568
Abstract (Summary)

The purpose of this study was to examine the exhibition developer role in the context of United States (U.S.) science centers, and more specifically, to investigate the way science center exhibition developers build their professional expertise. This research investigated how successfully practicing exhibition developers described their current practices, how they learned to be exhibition developers, and what factors were the most important to the developers in building their professional expertise.

Qualitative data was gathered from 10 currently practicing exhibition developers from three science centers: the Exploratorium, San Francisco, California; the Field Museum, Chicago, Illinois; and the Science Museum of Minnesota, St. Paul, Minnesota. In-depth, semistructured interviews were used to collect the data. The study embraced aspects of the phenomenological tradition and sought to derive a holistic understanding of the position and how expertise was built for it. The data were methodically coded and organized into themes prior to analysis.

The data analysis found that the position consisted of numerous and varied activities, but the developers' primary roles were advocating for the visitor, storytelling, and mediating information and ideas. They conducted these activities in the context of a team and relied on an established exhibition planning process to guide their work. Developers described a process of learning exhibition development that was experiential in nature. Learning through daily practice was key, though they also consulted with mentors and relied on visitor studies to gauge the effectiveness of their work. They were adept at integrating prior knowledge gained from many aspects of their lives into their practice. The developers described several internal factors that contributed to their expertise development including the desire to help others, a natural curiosity about the world, a commitment to learning, and the ability to accept critique. They expressed high levels of job satisfaction and a desire to continue in the position.

The study findings have several implications for the practice of exhibition development, including grounding it in a defined exhibition planning process, providing mentors and other resources for learning, and improving upon museum studies programs by providing avenues for exhibition development practice in the science center context.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Day, Barbara D.
Commitee: Boyette, Todd R., Nolan, Fran, Schainker, Stanley, Wilkerson, Rhonda
School: The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Department: Education - Curriculum & Instruction (Ed. D.)
School Location: United States -- North Carolina
Source: DAI-A 74/01(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Adult education, Science education, Museum studies
Keywords: Career development, Exhibition developer, Exhibitions, Expertise, Museum, Science centers
Publication Number: 3523568
ISBN: 978-1-267-56616-4
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