The Visitor Studies Group: Championing excellent visitor experiences


The VSG is managed by a committee elected from the Membership.
The role of the committee is to:

  • set the strategic direction for the Group
  • oversee the annual programme of activities
  • represent the Group professionally at conferences and workshops
  • encourage partnership working with like-minded organisations within the UK and from overseas
  • meet four times a year to ensure the needs of Members are discussed and met

The committee comprises:

  • either a Chair and Deputy Chair or two Co-Chairs
  • four or five committee Members
  • one or two Helpers

Committee Members are appointed for three years, have full voting rights and are allocated a portfolio of work to ensure their time is best spent and their own skills set developed. They are elected by the membership.

A Committee Helper is appointed for one year, does not have voting rights and is appointed to assist the committee to deliver the VSG programme of work. They are co-opted by the committee members.

A freelance post was created in 2012 to provide administrative support to the committee.

Chair: Kayte McSweeney

Object Journeys Partnerships Manager, British Museum

Kayte McSweeney

Prior to moving to the British Museum in 2015, Kayte was an Audience Advocate and Researcher at the Science Museum, London. Using evidence gleaned from visitor research, she advocates on behalf of audiences and has been involved in diverse visitor studies work including front-end gallery research, formative evaluation and advocacy, interactive exhibit prototype testing, participation project evaluation, summative evaluations and learning advocacy. She joined VSG in 2011 and has been committee co-chair since 2013.

Deputy Chair: Lorna Williams

Head of Content, National Media Museum

Lorna Williams

Lorna is Head of Content for a New Interactive Gallery at the National Science and Media Museum in Bradford (part of the Science Museum Group).  She previously worked at Birmingham Museums, based at Thinktank, Birmingham science museum. During her 7 years at Thinktank she held roles in both the education and exhibitions team.  Lorna has used a range of visitor research methods to evaluate content and test out interpretation.  Her current role sees her forming an interpretation strategy and evaluation plan for a new interactive gallery development.  She holds an MPhys in Physics and in 2011 she completed an MA in Learning and Visitor Studies in Museums from the University of Leicester. Lorna joined the VSG committee in May 2014.

Committee Member: Susie Ironside

Visitor Studies Curator, Glasgow Museums

Susie Ironside

Susie is currently Visitor Studies Curator at Glasgow Museums, where she leads on championing audience research and evaluation across the service on everything from major capital projects to temporary exhibitions. Community engagement and the role of co-production in museums is a key area of interest for her, and she is working with colleagues on a number of projects which are aiming to move Glasgow Museums towards a more collaborative model of public participation within the decision making process. Starting out as an English teacher, she found her way to museums via an audience development internship at CultureRepublic, Scotland’s cultural engagement hub, before embarking on the post of Assistant Curator of Visitor Studies for the Riverside Museum Project. She holds a BA (Honours) in English Literature and Sociology from the University of Glasgow, a Postgraduate Diploma in Education (Secondary) from the University of Strathclyde and recently obtained her Postgraduate Diploma in Learning and Visitor Studies in Museums from the University of Leicester. Susie joined the committee in March 2014.

Committee Member: Helen Mark

Research Manager, The Audience Agency

Helen Mark

Helen is the Research Manager for The Audience Agency, a national consultancy working with cultural organisations to build audiences and an independent not-for-profit organisation. Working with museum, heritage and arts organisations across England and Wales, Helen delivers a diverse range of visitor studies projects including formative and summative evaluations, audience consultation and visitor segmentation work. Helen also delivers research methods training to support organisations to deliver robust research in-house. Helen has been a member of the Market Research Society since 2011 and holds an MA in Arts Management, Policy and Practice from the University of Manchester. Helen joined VSG and became a VSG committee member in 2015.

Committee Member: Chris Whitby

Senior Audience Advocate (Enterprising Science), Science Museum

Chris Whitby

Chris is Learning Senior Audience Advocate at the Science Museum. He is currently involved on two projects at the Museum working with universities to better understand the visitor experience in Informal Learning environments: ‘Enterprising Science’ with Kings College, London, which seeks to further understand the idea of ‘Science Capital’, and ‘Building Bridges’ with UCL which hopes to better unite learning in school, at home, and in museums.
As well as these projects, Chris advocates for learning audiences across a variety of offers, including workshops, gallery resources and festivals.
Following a degree in History, Chris completed an MA in American Cultural Studies at the University of Manchester.

Committee Member: Louise White

Independent Consultant

Louise White

Louise is an independent consultant specialising in widening participation in arts and heritage, empowering organisations to put audience voices at the heart of shaping services. She has a research interest in cultural value and her work focuses on exploring the impact of public engagement with culture. Louise has particular expertise in engaging under-represented audiences: she has managed exhibitions co-created with young people with Islamic heritage at the National Portrait Gallery, reaching 77,000 visitors.  At London Transport Museum she collaborated with ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) family groups to develop an audience engagement strategy, and trained people who have experienced homelessness to develop and lead co-created museum tours.  She is an associate consultant at MB Associates: change management specialists for the cultural, learning and care sectors.  With this team she has consulted with cultural sector professionals to evaluate and redevelop a self-evaluation framework for the Arts Council England, and is evaluating the Association of Independent Museums (AIM) development programme ‘Hallmarks of prospering museums’.

Committee Helper: David Francis

PhD Researcher, British Museum

David Francis

David is a PhD researcher in museum studies based at the British Museum and the Institute of Archaeology, University College London. His research focuses on the role narrative plays in the Museum, both as an interpretive planning tool and as a means by which visitors negotiate exhibitions. He has eight years’ experience working as an interpretation officer at the British Museum where his role focussed on using visitor research to create and evaluate exhibitions. Prior to that he worked for two years as a visitor researcher at Chester Zoo, investigating encounters between people, animals and spaces. He is interested in qualitative approaches to visitor research, creating closer links between academic researchers and museum practitioners and the application of techniques taken from ethnography to capture the impact of community programmes.

Committee Helper: Marie Hobson

PhD Researcher, King’s College London

Group Administrator:  Nicôle Meehan

VSG Administrator / Teaching Fellow (Museum and Gallery Studies) University of St Andrews

Nicôle is is the Visitor Studies Group Administrator.  Nicôle joined the team in March 2016.  She currently works at the University of St Andrews as a Teaching Fellow in Museum and Gallery Studies and at the University of Glasgow as a Development Officer in the Department of Archaeology.  In the past she has worked and volunteered at Historic Scotland, National Galleries Scotland, Glasgow Life , the British Golf Museum and the National Mining Museum in Colorado.  Nicôle holds degrees in Applied Mathematics & Archaeology, Professional Archaeology, American Studies and Museum and Gallery Studies.  Nicôle works half a day per week, and all emails sent to reach her inbox.