As part of the review of the Museum Renewal Project an evaluation was undertaken into how visitors were responding to the Skeletons exhibition. This study aimed to understand the background to the exhibit, what was originally intended to be its aims and messages, how this exhibit is viewed now by visitors and how well it meets the Museum’s current criteria.

So what did we find?

Skeletons was the most popular permanent exhibition for visitors. It was described as being educational, unique, different, atmospheric and welcoming. The exhibition has a strong connection with visitors 79% considered that it would matter to them personally if there were no Skeletons exhibition. When asked for what improvements could be made 28% of respondents could not think of any way to improve the exhibition, and a further 13% were very definite in liking it just the way it is. As one respondent said:

Its perfect, why change it?

From observation and visitor comments the exhibition seems to fit with the preconceived idea of “What a Museum should be like”. The gallery is something “Museums should have” and in a world of rapid unsettling change is a constant that generations of visitors (from Australia) can share with their descendents and re-experience the wonder they felt seeing it for the first time. Children in particular described the space as “Cool” and received a thrill in seeing a human or animal skeleton for the first time (in the flesh, please forgive the pun!).

The exhibition was described as “educational”, with visitors receiving a variety of messages, however 19% received no message at all. The most popular responses were vague comments about “bone structure”, “the importance of bones” and “evolution”. The communication of the educational messages has been disrupted by the reorientation of the entrance away from the café end, with visitors now entering halfway through the sequence of displays. This did not seem to have had much impact, however, on the enjoyment of the exhibition.

The most popular displays were the Bicycle interactive and Home Sweet Home, with 30% of visitors being drawn to these displays as soon as they entered. Most visitors moved in a clockwise direction engaging with most displays. The least engaging displays were the video and Lord Howe Island diorama.

The evaluation found that the exhibition provided good opportunities for interaction between parents and young children.