The Museum of Science & Industry (MOSI) in Tampa solicited help from HCP to conduct an analysis of the science center’s operations and viability. The goal of this project was to pinpoint recommendations intended to prepare MOSI for the integration of STEAM and its public launch in celebration of the 60th anniversary. HCP’s analysis was aimed at renewing the visitor base to attract, engage, and retain visitors so that they may become ambassadors of MOSI’s mission. It was critical to bring in a third-party to complete the analysis to disrupt the status quo and to remove bias, historical preferences, and predispositions from entering into the recommendations.
There were a variety of methodologies exercised by HCP in this effort. The first phase of HCP’s involvement included secondary data collection on a variety of science center peers across the United States. Peers were analyzed on a wide variety of features for a total of 9 individual museum profiles. The second methodology utilized in this phase was primary observation via secret shopping by members of the research team. All members attended the museum and documented offerings as they appeared during normal museum operating hours, without notifying the museum of their presence. The final portion of this phase involved a review of data provided by the museum, including visioning documents and third-party reports and studies.
Upon completion of the initial phase, HCP had a strong basis of understanding of the status and the potential—a critical basis to develop prior to launching into internal interviews and discussions.
The second phase represented the largest segment of the project, involving various primary research efforts. These included both external and on-site data collection methods. External research encompassed online surveys of members and lapsed members as well as phone surveys of donors and of the wider local market. On-site data collection took two forms. One was via GoPro recordings conducted by seven groups of visitors documenting an entire museum visit. The second was numerous focus groups conducted with MOSI staff from various departments.
Overall, the stakeholder groups surveyed included the following: frontline staff, education staff, volunteers, unaffiliated visitors, members, lapsed members, donors, and the general local market.
When HCP began this process with MOSI, the organization was facing an uphill battle to reinvent the brand and position the facility for the future. The museum lacked solid data to justify and affirm the changes it sought to implement, and what evidence did exist was disparate and difficult to understand. The completion of this project changed that. The myriad of elements brought together within the results gave MOSI a solid, evidence-based foundation to build a visitor base for the next 60 years and beyond. They offered internal and external recommendations into how the organization can be elevated in the eyes of the community and ways it can expand its mission to integrate STEAM in a positive and collaborative way while leveraging local partners and remaining a core Tampa Bay institution well into the future.