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Judging Exhibitions: A Framework for Assessing Excellence

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Overview


Renowned museum consultant and researcher Beverly Serrell and a group of museum professionals from the Chicago area have developed a generalizable framework by which the quality of museum exhibitions can be judged from a visitor-centered perspective. Using criteria such as comfort, engagement, reinforcement, and meaningfulness, they have produced a useful tool for other museum professionals to better assess the effectiveness of museum exhibitions and thereby to improve their quality. An attached CD includes a brief video demonstrating the Excellent Judges process and provides additional illustrations and information for the reader. Tested in a dozen institutions by the research team, this step-by-step approach to judging exhibitions will be of great value to museum directors, exhibit developers, and other museum professionals.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Serrell, who has served as an exhibition evaluator for decades, sent a letter to museum exhibitors in July 2000 inviting them to explore one question: If different museum professionals used the same set of standards to review the same group of exhibitions, would their reviews agree on the degree of excellence of each? The resulting discussion and research formed the framework outlined in Judging Exhibitions, which, while acknowledging that there is no way to fully escape subjectivity, provides strategies to universally define excellence in exhibitions from a visitor\'s perspective. An accompanying CD-ROM contains useful forms and multimedia that demonstrate the framework in action." - Museum News

"Judging Exhibitions is the result of a collaboration between some of the most well respected professionals in the field.... Serrell has provided a useful professional development tool that can help to organize the language and thoughts of individuals who design and develop exhibits." - Sonal Bhatt, Jessica Bicknell & Richard Orlosky (Wildlife Conservation Society) in Visitor Studies Today

"Taking part in the Excellent Judges process has been the most effective, least expensive (in time or money) professional development I have ever done. It provides the framework for me to visit other shows I would probably miss, critique them in a predictable and repeatable way so that I can develop criteria for excellence, and generate conversation with colleagues from whom I learn different perspectives." - Kitty Connolly, Huntington Library

"To the extent that judges do come to a shared understanding of the criteria through discussion of multiple examples, they have moved the field forward giving us a common language to talk about our craft." - Sue Allen, Exploratorium

"Throughout her thirty-plus years of working in and for museums, Beverly Serrell has focused on making exhibitions more visitor-accessible. Now, with this book, Serrell takes us on an invigorating journey into the process of thinking deeply about the exhibition medium and the complexities of striving for exhibition excellence. This is a must-read for anyone interested in creating museum exhibitions." - Kathleen McLean, independent museum consultant
"Judging Exhibitions does an intriguing job of balancing the desire to offer people clear, common guidelines that do some of the basic work of judgment, with the realization that judgment itself is an art, not a technique, and certainly not a science." - Elizabeth Minnich, Fellow, Associate of American Colleges and Universities

"The book is short, easy to read, and engaging. ….I found Judging Excellence refreshingly honest about the project’s ups and downs. Serrell describes how developers and participants disagreed regularly on aspects of the framework—the use of the term “excellence,” for example. She also is well aware that the framework may not work well for every exhibition on the planet. Putting aside my nagging suspicion that only exhibition virgins truly experience an exhibition through a visitor’s eyes, I nevertheless found that the framework (especially when coupled with this publication) has real merit. While this is not the final evaluative tool created for exhibition review, Serrell hopes that museum practitioners—especially students, exhibition developers, curators, educators, project managers, and designers—will try using it. Anything that can potentially help exhibition professionals to perfect their skills and improve their audience sensitivity is a good thing." - Kym Rice, Museum Anthropology Review

“This new book from respected museum consultant Beverly Serrell takes an innovative approach to assessing exhibitions. … The framework allows you to bring your experience as a museum professional with you, rather than asking you to try and disengage and assess the exhibit from the point of view of someone else. This is a real strength, giving the user the opportunity to engage with an exhibit in the way they would normally—making comments about their area of specialism, as well as responding intuitively to other areas. Following a framework with set criteria helps one focus on the overall experience of the exhibit rather than looking for things to criticize. … This book will succeed in helping museums create better visitor experiences, provide a common language for discussing exhibitions, and perhaps help us understand that elusive mix of features that make for a successful display.”

Rhiannon Johns, The British Museum, Journal of Museum Ethnography

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781598740325
  • Publisher: Left Coast Press
  • Publication date: 5/31/2006
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 198
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author


Beverly Serrell is one of the best known museum consultants in the United States, author of Exhibit Labels and many other works for museum professionals.
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Table of Contents

Pt. I Introduction 1
How and why the framework got developed 3
What we built on 5
The "excellent judges" name 10
What's in this book and on the CD 12
Pt. II What is the framework? 15
The purpose and the process 17
The joy of thinking 21
Taking a "visitor-centered perspective" 25
How design fits into the framework 30
The rote of intention 34
Pt. III How to use the framework 39
The framework form 41
1 The first meeting-orientation 47
2 Creating call-outs 52
3 Assessing the aspects 56
4 Rating the criteria 58
5 The second meeting-assessing and comparing 61
The biggest drawbacks 71
Integrating the use of the framework for in-house exhibition development 73
Using the framework to teach museum studies 78
Using the framework with art museums 84
Pt. IV Theoretical underpinnings 89
How the framework compares to other methods of reviewing exhibitions 91
Research and other studies that inform the framework's criteria 110
Meeting John R. Frederiksen 120
Issues with validity and reliability 125
Wild Reef : a points-of-view case study 133
Comparing the framework to evaluation findings 138
Pivotal moments in the history of building the framework 141
Pt. V Future of the framework 147
Broader use of guidelines for judging excellence in exhibitions 149
Expanding the functions of the framework : creating a library of exemplars 154
Bringing staff together for better communication, efficiency, and outcomes 158
Into the future 161
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