Exhibition evaluation is a process consisting of four steps that provide opportunities at each stage in order to test the effectiveness of the interpretative approaches and messages. This literature review will therefore discuss exhibition evaluation with regards to fashion or clothing exhibition programs (Lynda 2009, p. 1). Clothing exhibitions refer to programs planned to interact, educate, and learn fashion skills between fashion designers and museum visitors interested in acquiring the displayed pieces (Ruth 2007, p. 9).
Exhibition Evaluation Processes
The four processes involving exhibition evaluation are as follows. The first process is known as Front-end evaluation which occurs during exhibition development stage. It gauges audiences’ levels of interest in order to gather prior knowledge regarding particular subjects. This process develops audiences, themes, messages, goals and interpretive strategies to achieve the following strategies (Lynda 2009, p. 1). With regards to clothing exhibitions, it assists in identifying project briefs. This facilitates audiences to gain a deeper understanding of their fashion interests, based on the prior knowledge and concepts relating to the clothing exhibition. It also seeks to test theories in order to assess visitors’ behaviors and learning habits. Consequently, it researches audiences’ fashion needs in order to strive and meet them satisfactorily. Thus, this process collects relevant information regarding audiences’ as well as proposed fashion ideas that assist in decision making procedure in planning future clothing exhibitions (Bronwyn 2014, p. 47).
The process can use methods such as computer surveys, focus groups, online surveys, large and small scale semi-structured interviews, workshops, and community days as well as literature reviews and evaluation reports. These methods can therefore acquire feedback to determine how clothing exhibitions can be improved (Maria 2004, p. 34).
The second process is known as formative evaluation. This process occurs when developing and producing fashion-test exhibition components (Lynda 2009, p. 1). With regards to clothing exhibitions, these components include dressing graphics, interactive, texts and fashion labels. Thus, it takes place during the development stage in order to allow findings to be incorporated in the final product. Proposed mock-up exhibits and texts as well as communication tools are also used to achieve the following objectives.
Foremost, they are required to seek feedback in relation to how the proposed program communicates messages (FWWC 2015, p. 2). Consequently, they strive to produce optimum program within possible limits in order to provide insight concerning the learning and communication proves. This process relies on methods such as semi-structured interviews, work shopping with staff and special interest groups, small scale samples of visitors, and cued as well as non-cued observations. Repetitive methodologies through consultation and literature searches are also incorporated to acquire findings from each stage in order for developers to be satisfied with the final product or item being tested (Randi 2006, p. 24).
The third process is known as remedial evaluation. It should be conducted as soon as a clothing exhibition opens in order to assess how parts of the program will continue to work together. This allows practical suggestions to be implemented in order to record improvements (Lynda 2009, p. 1). For example, clothing exhibitions should focus on architectural and physical features including lighting, entrances, exits, and placement of dresses, models, and the runway. Psychological factors such as disorientation of crowds, fatigue, thematic layout, social activities, and information overload are also evaluated (Ruth 2007, P. 9). The process therefore aims to achieve the following objectives. Foremost, to ensure program is effectively and efficiently working in a practical sense. Consequently, maintenance of resources and their availability should be determined. This ensures short and long-term improvements ensuring the program is effective for the visitors are achieved. Hence, early insights on how visitors should use the program are provided. The process uses methods such as feedback sheets, observations, surveys, informal feedbacks from visitors, and interviews as well as comments books and staff feedback reports (Theresa, Stephen, David, Catherine & Tammy 2010, p. 31).
The final process is known as summative evaluation using variety of methods at the conclusion of a program or exhibition to ensure intended messages were delivered. This allows evaluation of the learning that has occurred based on the delivered messages to determine if people are satisfied with the program or exhibition (Lynda 2009, p. 1). The performance levels of marketing strategies applied during the clothing exhibition should also be evaluated on the finished exhibit. The components and internal sources of a clothing exhibition such as project and staff teams as well as external feedback from special interest groups and visitors should also be evaluated (LFW 2015, p. 2).
The process seeks to achieve the following aims. Foremost, to give feedback about achievement of objectives while providing information on ways the clothing exhibition is working overall. This allows assessments to be conducted to determine what people have learnt from the fashion or clothing exhibit and how they can be amended, changed, or improved (Gail 2005, p. 3). Consequently, reports on future plans and projects are provided allowing staffs and project teams to offer suggestions. This provides an opportunity to identify potential problems, areas of interest to learn and successful layouts and strategies (GAEI 2011, p. 16).
Lastly, relationship between program costs and outcomes is evaluated through the cost/benefit analysis. The methods applied through this process include large scale visitor surveys, critical appraisals, visitor number counts, in-depth interviews, formal testing with groups and/or visitors, and structured observations gauging visitors’ interests as well as effectiveness of the exhibition to attract, attain and sustain visitors attention (Michael & Lauren 2012, p. 66).
According to Rockman (2011, p. 12), Rennie and Johnston emphasized that learning is personal and contextualized while taking time. Thus, clothing exhibitions should integrate plays, experiences, and learning in order to attract visitors from different age groups, backgrounds, and genders. There are various theoretical principles applied to highlight community and social aspects significantly influencing clothing exhibitions in order to identify, access, and seize opportunities (Patricia 2014, p. 1). The socio-constructivist theory provided teachers with an opportunity for learners to gain museum experience through personal and learning exhibition programs. This allowed them to utilize museum visits in reviewing what and how processes take place. Thus, this theory should be applied in order to ensure clothing exhibitions acquire experience concerning displays while allowing visitors to express their opinions and interests (Jacqueline 2010, p. 11).
The fashion theory however should complement the socio-constructivist theory as it discusses historical, provocative and contemporary factors influencing fashion and museum exhibitions (Katherine 2015, p. 1). It seeks to assert that, public wardrobes should involve rethinking dress and fashion interests among dressers and museums. This guarantees that, the exhibitor identifies and captures visitors interests based on their fashion and cultural needs (Marie & Birgitta 2014, p. 1). Thus, fashion theory advocates for fashion exhibitions that are designed to identify cultural, visual, social, political and economic factors influencing clothing exhibition programs (Celeste 2015, p. 1).
Clothing exhibition in museums therefore aim at showcasing various designs visitors will identify with allied to fashion needs, wants, and desires. For a long historical period, fashion designers including Gianni Versace and Christian Dior have relied on museum exhibitions to showcase their latest fashion trends. Clothing exhibitions should therefore be evaluated to ensure the right fashion designs, trends, displays, and dresses are displayed to the audience. Consequently, the clothing designers should provide visitors with an opportunity to discuss the exhibitions. This will identify the weak and strong areas to work on during future clothing museum exhibitions. More so, international costumer trendsetters can acquire some costumes to take the local sensibility of fashion to other historically fashionable areas that are contrasting (Buick 2012, p. 1).
Samples on how to Display Clothes in a Clothing Exhibition
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Bronwyn, L 2014, Expanding Fashion Exhibition History and Theory: Fashion at New Zealand’s National Museum Since 1950. International Journal of Fashion Studies. Retrieved on 5th May 2015 from: http://www.academia.edu/7260491/Expanding_fashion_exhibition_history_and_theory_Fashion_at_New_Zealand_s_national_museum_since_1950
Buick, N 2012, Framing Fashion Curation: A Theoretical, Historical and Practical Perspective. Brisbane: Queensland University of Technology. Retrieved on 5th May 2015 from: http://eprints.qut.edu.au/63319/
Celeste, S 2015, Top 5 Architecture and Design Exhibitions for Your Calendar. Huffington Post. Retrieved on 5th May 2015 from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/artphaire/top-5-architecture-design_b_6652168.html
Dilys E. B 2003, Shocking! The Art & Fashion OF Elsa Schiaparelli. Philadelphia Museum of Art. Philadelphia Museum. Retrieved on 5th May 2015 from: http://www.philamuseum.org/doc_downloads/education/ex_resources/schiaparelli.pdf
First World War Centenary (FWWC) 2015, Fashion on the Ration: 1940s Street Style. London, Imperial War Museums Press Release. Retrieved on 5th May 2015 from: http://www.iwm.org.uk/sites/default/files/press-release/Fashion%20on%20the%20Ration%20release%20FINAL.pdf
Gail, R 2005, Designing Exhibits for Kids: What Are We Thinking? Exhibits and Production. Boston Children’s Museum. Retrieved on 5th May 2015 from: https://www.getty.edu/education/symposium/Ringel.pdf
Global Association of the Exhibition Industry (GAEI) 2011, The Role of Exhibitions in the Marketing Mix. The Global Association of the Exhibition Industry Report. Retrieved on 5th May 2015 from: https://www.bvv.cz/ufi-seminar/01_PDF/UFI_course.pdf
Jacqueline, A 2010, Museums as Learning Environments. Austin, University of Texas. Retrieved on 5th May 2015 from: https://www.utexas.edu/finearts/aah/sites/files/aah/files/abreo.pdf
Katherine, B 2015, The 21 Art Exhibitions You’ll Be Talking About This Year. Huffington Post. Retrieved on 5th May 2015 from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/07/2015-art-exhibitions_n_6424402.html
London Fashion Weak (LFW) 2015, Emerging International Fashion Designer Exhibition During London Fashion Week. British Council and the British Fashion Council. Retrieved on 5th May 2015 from: http://www.londonfashionweek.co.uk/uploads/media/17/16637.pdf
Lynda, K 2009, Australian Museum: Exhibition Evaluation Explained. Australian Museum. Retrieved on 5th May 2015 from: http://australianmuseum.net.au/exhibition-evaluation
Maria, E 2004, Evaluation Strategies in the Cultural Sector: The Case of the Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery in Glasgow. University of the Aegean. Retrieved on 5th May 2015 from: https://www2.le.ac.uk/departments/museumstudies/museumsociety/documents/volumes/economou.pdf
Marie, R & Birgitta, S 2014, Fashion and Museums: Theory and Practice. Visual Resources Center. Retrieved on 5th May 2015 from:
Michael, M & Lauren, Q 2012, Create the Future with Us. Frock Paper Scissors. Retrieved on 5th May 2015 from: http://frockpaperscissors.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/FPS_2012.pdf
Patricia, H 2014, Fashion Follows Form: Designs for Sitting. Fashion Forum. Retrieved on 5th May 2015 from: https://www.rom.on.ca/en/exhibitions-galleries/exhibitions/fashion-follows-form
Randi, K 2006, Exhibit Evaluation Summative Evaluation of Invention at Play. Museum Visitor Studies, Evaluation & Audience Research. Retrieved on 5th May 2015 from: http://www.exhibitfiles.org/dfile2/ReviewFinding/133/original/RK&A_Lemelson_Invention_small_summ_dist.pdf
Rockman, B 2011, Brain the Inside Story: Exhibition Evaluation Report. American Museum of the Natural History. Retrieved on 5th May 2015 from: http://www.amnh.org/content/download/2033/25841/file/evaluation_exhibition_brain.pdf
Ruth, H 2007, Exhibition guidebook: Parallel Practices in Fashion and Architecture. Embankment Galleries at Somerset House. Retrieved on 5th May 2015 from: http://www.somersethouse.org.uk/documents/skinbones_exhibition_guide.pdf
Stephanie, G 2005, Kiri’s Dresses: an Exhibition about an Iconic New Zealander. Te Papa Museum of New Zealand Collection Documents. Retrieved on 5th May 2015 from: https://www.tepapa.govt.nz/SiteCollectionDocuments/Tuhinga/Tuhinga.16.Article1.pdf
Theresa, C., Stephen, F., David, S., Catherine, M & Tammy, R 2010, Transforming History, Creating A Legacy: An Evaluation of Exhibit Effectiveness. Retrieved on 5th May 2015 from: http://www.nps.gov/hfc/pdf/evaluate/CHSCreport.pdf