The Visitor Studies Group: Championing excellent visitor experiences

News & Events

The latest news and upcoming events from The Visitor Studies Group (VSG). To find out more or make a booking please see the events posted below.

‘Big data, big opportunities?’ – Reflections


This year’s VSG Conference, ‘Big data, big opportunities?’ took place March 8th and 9th in London’s Natural History Museum.  Our bursary recipient, Elena Trimarchi, reflects on a busy two days:

The theme of this year’s conference was Big Data. One of the things that most struck me was the variety of the speakers’ backgrounds: from Science Centres in the US to Transport for London and presentations varying from relatable museum case studies to practicable tools provided by data research experts. The two days were filled with learning opportunities.

Having recently started working on an HLF funded project in Scotland (the David Livingstone Birthplace Project), the team there and I have the perfect chance to embed visitor studies good practice in the new museum. As a museum learning practitioner I am familiar with evaluation and some level of visitor studies, but attending the conference really opened my eyes to the possibilities of truly understanding our audiences.

The recurring themes across the conference included collaboration and the benefit of sharing available data (all whilst keeping in mind the upcoming GDPR legislation!), the results that can be achieved if information and training opportunities are made available to similar organisations with fewer resources and the importance of buy-in from the wider team (especially the value of front of house teams). Some Big Data sources are accessible, and it’s all about how you use them.

It is beneficial to individuals, services and ultimately visitors to truly understand visitor studies practice and develop skills in order to act upon findings. Staff need to be supported through this and a key element of success is nurturing a culture of communication between and across departments.

There was a lot of really useful more technical discussions, which again helped me understand how data analysis works and what can be done to better understand our users. Predicting visitor flow looking at wider data (e.g. weather and tourism trends) is something that could be achievable on a small scale too.

Overarching the two days was the recommendation to act upon findings, and make data useful, ultimately providing a better service to visitors or customers.

Start off with a question (what do you want to find out?) then look at the data available, helping it inform your decisions and approach. That is the main purpose of visitor studies: to ensure decisions are made based on evidence. This translates easily into advocacy tools and ultimately helps organisations achieve their goals. Lack of resources can be overcome by starting small and demonstrating impact of evidence-based decision making.

I recommend going onto Twitter and searching #VSGConf18 to get a great picture of all the discussions that happened over the two days. I would also definitely recommend signing up for next year’s conference.

The Visitor Studies Survival Kit training workshop

Training event, Inverness, 19th March 2018 The Visitor Studies Group has partnered with GEM  to offer ‘The Visitor Studies Survival Kit’ to be held in Inverness next year. Presenting an overview of qualitative and quantitative research techniques that can be delivered on limited budgets with limited resources, this event will give GEM and Visitor Studies Group membersContinue Reading

Conference 2018

  ***Tickets can be purchased via Eventbrite .*** The full programme is available for download here:  VSG Conference 2018 Programme . In visitor studies, we are constantly striving to respond to an ever-changing socio-political landscape. We are frequently tasked with helping our organisations understand and support evidence-informed decision making, in response to these often complex areas. As populations and communitiesContinue Reading

Conference 2018: Call for Papers

  We are excited to announce the theme for our 2018 annual conference and issue our call for papers . The theme will be: ‘Big data, big opportunities?’ In visitor studies, we are constantly striving to respond to an ever-changing socio-political landscape. We are frequently tasked with helping our organisations understand and support evidence-informed decision making, in responseContinue Reading

Bursary applications open!

Applications for the 2017 Alison James Professional Development Bursary are now open.  In 2017 the VSG annual bursary will provide financial assistance to those in the early stages of their career to provide support and encouragement in their professional development. The closing date for applications this year is Monday 8 May 2017. Applicants will be expectedContinue Reading

Conference reflections

This year, the Visitor Studies Group were happy to be able to offer a bursary to assist one person to attend our conference.  Louise Treble of Glasgow Museums was the deserving recipient and through the bursary was able to attend the full two day conference.  Louise has kindly summarised her experience of the conference: As theContinue Reading

Conference programme announced!

The full programme  for the Visitor Studies Group’s 2017 conference, ”Measuring up”: ways of capturing social value and more intangible outcomes’ is available to view now. We think this is one of our most exciting programmes yet, featuring speakers from a diverse range of organisations and institutions both within and outside of the heritage sector. A sample ofContinue Reading