The Voice of Museum-Goers

2022-23 Fellow Samantha Williams reflects on her time at the Phillips working on visitor experience and digital engagement.

My time at The Phillips Collection was spent getting to know the voice of museum goers. As the Visitor Experience and Digital Engagement fellow, I collected, organized, and analyzed data to make conclusions on the who, what, when, where, and why of Phillips visitors. It was a 10-month-long exercise in collaborative storytelling with both The Phillips Collection and its patrons.

Visitors at the admissions desk. Photo: Mariah Miranda

My fellowship allowed me to work on multiple interesting projects. But my two main projects included revamping the museum map and survey data diving. When it came to updating the map, I started with simply studying the current museum map and retrospectively looking at previous maps. I enjoyed learning about the different ways in which they were designed. It was like peering into the minds of the museum staff and visitors in years past and discovering what they considered important and necessary. From the maps I took note of potential pain points for visitors and drafted solutions. Additionally, I collected field data via interviews with Museum Assistants and key leadership at The Phillips Collection to gain a good understanding of what visitors today need. I presented my findings and design suggestions to the Marketing and Communication team which helped establish a new map!

Concurrently, I was behind the scenes with data from The Phillips Collection’s surveys. I was assigned the responsibility of compiling the raw data from the General Visitor Survey and the Phillips after 5 Survey. I would run the data collected through a data visualization program where I could clean, organize, and make sense of it all. One of the key things I established through this process was a snapshot of the typical Phillips visitor. The data gave light to whose voice is currently represented and whose voice could be amplified more. This finding will hopefully aid the museum in the future. It provides a baseline by which The Phillips Collection can brainstorm better ways to diversify its space and elevate visitors’ overall experience.

Overall, I am very proud of what I was able to accomplish during my short time at The Phillips Collection. It was meaningful work that can impact prospective and returning visitors’ experiences. The Phillips Collection has been a wonderful institution in which I learned, explored, and grew. Getting to see firsthand what goes on in the background at a museum was amazing. My perception of museums was strengthened through this fellowship and reaffirmed that I want to have a career in the art world!