Leslie Adelman is a senior research associate and John Falk is the director at the Institute for Learning Innovation, 166 West Street, Annapolis, MD 21401, <email@example.com>, <firstname.lastname@example.org>, and Sylvia James is director of Conservation Education, National Aquarium in Baltimore, Pier 3/501 East Pratt Street, Baltimore, MD 21202, email@example.com.
Impact of National Aquarium in Baltimore on Visitors' Conservation Attitudes, Behavior, and Knowledge
Article first published online: 24 MAY 2010
2000 California Academy of Sciences
Curator: The Museum Journal
Volume 43, Issue 1, pages 33–61, January 2000
How to Cite
ADELMAN, L. M., FALK, J. H. and JAMES, S. (2000), Impact of National Aquarium in Baltimore on Visitors' Conservation Attitudes, Behavior, and Knowledge. Curator: The Museum Journal, 43: 33–61. doi: 10.1111/j.2151-6952.2000.tb01158.x
- Issue published online: 24 MAY 2010
- Article first published online: 24 MAY 2010
This study at the National Aquarium in Baltimore (NAIB) was conducted to assess four key aspects of the visitor experience: (1) incoming conservation knowledge, attitudes, and behavior of NAIB visitors; (2) patterns of use and interaction with exhibition components throughout the NAIB; (3) exiting conservation knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors of visitors; and (4) over time, how the NAIB experience altered or affected individuals' conservation knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors.
Three hundred six visitors participated in the study, which was conducted from March through July, 1999. The study utilized four data-collection techniques: (1) face-to-face interviews, (2) Personal Meaning Mapping (PMM), (3) tracking, and (4) follow-up telephone interviews. Participants were a self-selected population and were generally more knowledgeable about, more concerned about, and more involved in conservation-related issues than the general public. However, they were far from conservationists. Visitors in this study clearly absorbed the fundamental conservation message at the NAIB. In fact, the NAIB visit appeared to focus visitors' conservation-related thoughts, while also broadening their understanding of conservation.
Changes in visitors' conservation knowledge, understanding, and interests by and large persisted over six to eight weeks after visiting NAIB. The NAIB experience also connected to visitors' lives in a variety of ways following their visit. However, these personal experiences rarely resulted in new conservation actions. In fact, their enthusiasm and emotional commitment to conservation (inspired during the NAIB visit) generally fell back to original levels, presumably in the absence of reinforcing experiences. The findings of this study are guiding subsequent investigations at the NAIB. More generally, the results suggest strategies to enhance current understanding of the impact free-choice learning institutions have on their visiting public.