Evaluating Museum in a Box for the London Postal Museum

Sponsor: The Postal Museum
Sponsor Liaison: Martin Devereux
Student Team: Connor Dietz
Tabitha Gibbs
Ben Schade
Owen Smith
Abstract: The Postal Museum asked the authors of this report to evaluate a new outreach program, called Museum in a Box. To determine its effectiveness as an educational tool outside the museum, the team determined design criteria, developed a functional prototype, and observed its use in a classroom. The team collated key takeaways from interviews, surveys, and observations to produce actionable recommendations. The team ultimately advised The Postal Museum to pursue further development of content for deployment on the Museum in a Box platform.

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Executive Summary

          Our team explored a new outreach technology for The Postal Museum that combines powerful learning techniques with the internet of things. This technology, called Museum in a Box, lets students access museum content they otherwise could not by sending them replicas of museum items, each of which are supplemented by informative audio. This project investigates if the museum could use this tool to share their content with a wider and more diverse audience. In fourteen weeks, we evaluated MiaB for The Postal Museum to determine if it could fill their need for an outreach program that would enable them to share their collections with students and educators who lack the resources to visit the museum.
          The goal of our investigation was to explore MiaB’s possible applications and determine the program’s efficacy as an educational tool for The Postal Museum. Our major objectives to accomplish this goal were to:

  1. Determine design criteria for MiaB, and identify The Postal Museum’s goals for MiaB
  2. Develop a prototype lesson and bundle for MiaB
  3. Evaluate the lesson and bundle to form a recommendation for The Postal Museum

          To identify our design criteria, we gathered background information to clarify the needs of The Postal Museum in relation to MiaB. This required understanding how The Postal Museum presents its content to children and identifying the overall goals of our project from both our sponsor and the learning team manager. We found that the museum was looking to create a sustainable, wide-reaching outreach program that would share key aspects of its collection with audiences that could not attend on-site exhibitions.
          An effective outreach program needs to properly select elements of a collection and engage students in a diverse and meaningful way. To understand how The Postal Museum’s content can best be presented to children, we observed its current field trip programs, studied behaviors of children in its gallery, and discussed student engagement strategies with primary school and university level educators. These educators helped us determine what schools needed from museums to meet their own objectives. Combining these needs with our initial design criteria we developed a functional prototype that met all of the requirements for a successful outreach program (Figure E-1).

Figure E-1: Some of our MiaB item bundle

          To support our findings and recommendations, we brought our prototype into classrooms, tested it, and collected feedback on its use from both students and teachers. The prototype was accompanied by a supplemental activity that could be used to occupy half of a class while the other half was using the box, maximizing the hands-on experience. The activity, which tasked students with interpreting telegrams and cross-written letters, proved highly successful and unexpectedly engaging. The data we gathered provided us with the evidence we needed to present The Postal Museum with actionable recommendations that will help them develop their own content in the future.

  • Use engaging and tactile items
  • Capture student’s attention with scripts and audio
  • Engage students throughout the lesson

          After careful research, we are comfortable advising The Postal Museum to develop content with the MiaB platform and to evaluate any new content they make to corroborate our findings on MiaB’s effectiveness. The type of lesson that the MiaB platform encourages shows promise for getting students excited about The Postal Museum’s collection. Even if the MiaB platform does not gain traction among educators, the content developed for it will still prove valuable if used with other mediums. Our classroom testing indicates that MiaB-based lessons have a promising future in the repertoire of The Postal Museum’s programs and could allow the museum to share its content with schools all across London, the UK, or even the world.