The Visitor Studies Group (www.visitors.org.uk) is a community of professionals who promote dialogue, facilitate debate and provide continuing professional development in Visitor Studies for anybody working in cultural and natural heritage organisations.
I have been aware of the work of the VSG for some time through working closely with the Visitor Studies officer at National Museums Scotland on the redevelopment project, but in April 2012 I was pleased to secure a freelance job supporting the group’s committee with coordination and administration.
The mission of the group is ‘Championing excellent visitor experiences’ which really resonated with me. Although I am not a Visitor Studies specialist, I use a lot of visitor studies methods in my work and often work closely with specialists to ensure that the exhibitions and projects I work on are truly visitor-focussed.
Right now, I am busier than I’ve ever been with VSG work because we are holding our 2013 Conference and AGM on 4th and 5th February at the London Wetlands Centre. The venue is beautiful but also particularly appropriate as this year’s theme for the Conference is ‘Environments’. We will be offering sessions covering how your environments affect the visitor experience, how to evaluate environmental factors and what influence environments might have on your work. Although I am going to be very busy making sure delegates are all registered for the right sessions and speakers have all they need, as well as liaison with our hosts at the venue, I very much hope that I will be able to sit in on many of the sessions because the programme the committee has put together looks fantastic!
Monday 4th February will be a day of talks and discussions as well as VSG news and AGM. Highlights include Keynote Speaker architect Gareth Hoskins, particularly known for contemporary and considered design responses for the reuse of listed buildings, and in the creation of spaces for community, heritage and social purposes. Other sessions will cover a range of topics from innovative work in Outdoors environments to Disability Access in indoor spaces.
On Tuesday 5th February we will be focusing on practical workshops. Each delegate will have the opportunity to choose three workshops from a selection of six, as well as the plenary session. Workshops cover visitor studies tools, techniques, projects and findings in a range of environments from art galleries, outdoor spaces, museums, zoos, parks and even digital spaces.
A full programme and booking form can be found at http://visitors.org.uk/node/511 and, although it won’t be anything like taking part in person, I am sure that many of the resources will be posted on the website too, I will post a link here when that happens.