Long term impact of interactive science exhibits
In this study, the long-term impact on family groups of the interactive science exhibits in Launch Pad (Science Museum, London) has been investigated and described both qualitatively and quantitatively. Having reviewed the literature, and sought the views of professionals working in interactive science centres, a series of research questions was evolved. It is argued that it is reasonable to use visitors' recollections of their visits in order to assess this long-term impact. Altogether, 20 subjects were observed in Launch Pad, 396 were given an interview immediately after their visit, 208 responded to a follow-up questionnaire, and 79 were given an in-depth interview about 6 months later. Various indicators have been defined in order to quantify the differences that exist between interactive exhibits, and the concept of exhibit profiles has been introduced as a way of graphically representing these differences. The exhibits were found to hold the attention of visitors, and there was little evidence of museum fatigue. Subjects reported almost unanimously that they had enjoyed their visit and that Launch Pad had made a large positive impact the effects of which lasted for at least six months. Visitors were able to recall in vivid and clear detail their experiences in Launch Pad six months later. A new method of analysing their diverse and scattered recollections was evolved by the development of a network and coding strategies. Although 59% of the elaborated memory comments were found to be descriptive, there were nearly twice as many thoughts as feelings. Also, the data showed that visitors had reflected on their experiences and related them to existing knowledge or, for example, to programmes they saw on television. Evidence of subsequent cognitive processing suggests that a visitor embarks on a process of learning and understanding following an enjoyable, inspiring and thought-provoking visit.