​Evaluating Effectiveness, Engagement, and Family-Friendliness at Kensington Palace


Sponsor: Historic Royal Palaces
Sponsor Liaison: Emma Morioka
Student Team: William Cooley, Yingbing Lu, Philip Lund, Tiffany Ta
Abstract: Historic Royal Palaces, a charity that manages six royal palaces, opened two new exhibits, Victoria: A Royal Childhood and Victoria: Woman and Crown, at Kensington Palace to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Queen Victoria’s birth. Our team sought to evaluate the effectiveness, engagement, and family-friendliness of these exhibits in order to improve the visitor experience. To achieve this goal, we conducted interviews with the exhibition managers to determine their goals and expectations for the exhibits, then designed and utilized a survey and observation guide to gather visitor responses. We used the 370 survey responses and 65 observational samples we collected to compare the exhibits to previous exhibits and provide recommendations on improving signage and navigational clarity.
Link: Final report:  HRP IQP Final Revised Report_Dec_30

Executive Summary

A country’s history helps its residents and visitors understand its present state and appreciate its culture and greatness. To prevent loss of this knowledge, the heritage industry, a group of businesses and charities comprised primarily of museums and historic sites, has taken on the responsibility of preserving and presenting history. However, studies have shown that some visitors struggle to develop an emotional connection with history-related attractions. Visitors want to feel immersed and interact with an exhibit so they can more easily create a connection with the information presented (Norris & Tisdale, 2017).

London is renowned for its historic sites, especially those related to the monarchy. VisitBritain research shows that over 60% of overseas visitors who come to Britain are likely to seek out places associated with the monarchy (2014). Historic Royal Palaces (HRP) maintains six royal palaces in the United Kingdom. HRP has commemorated the 200th anniversary of Queen Victoria’s birth by creating new exhibits to encourage visitor engagement in May 2019. The first exhibit, Victoria: A Royal Childhood, is a family-friendly exhibit that HRP hopes will attract more family visitors to Kensington Palace. The second exhibit is Victoria: Woman and Crown, which covers Queen Victoria’s later life and legacy, examining her roles as mother, wife, grandmother, monarch, and widow. HRP staff sought third-party evaluations of these exhibits to gain an outside perspective and to help staff address any issues or shortcomings with the Queen Victoria exhibits they may not have otherwise noticed.

The goal of the project was to evaluate the effectiveness, engagement, and family-friendliness of the new Victoria: A Royal Childhood and Victoria: Woman and Crown exhibits at Kensington Palace in order to improve the visitor experience. To accomplish this goal, we first identified common practices and standards for interaction and family-friendliness at other museums and historic sites, noting how their exhibits’ standards compare to best practices. Second, we determined HRP’s motivations for opening the Queen Victoria exhibits and the organization’s anticipated visitor takeaways from them. Third, we analyzed who visits Kensington Palace and why, how individuals and families interact with the exhibits, and how these new exhibits compare to HRP’s past exhibits.

To understand commonly used methods of exhibit design, we visited exhibits at prominent HRP and non-HRP sites, using Google Forms to record our observations. These observations served as a basis for comparison when evaluating the Queen Victoria exhibits at Kensington Palace. We then interviewed two HRP exhibition managers and the Director of Interpretation to understand their motivations, goals, and expectations for the new exhibits. These interviews explored the reasoning behind the exhibit designs, characteristics intended to make the exhibit family-friendly, and the designers’ plans to engage visitors.

In order to assess the engagement, effectiveness, and family-friendliness of the exhibits at Kensington Palace, we designed a survey and observation guide. We selected questions to address specific measures mentioned in the HRP evaluation plan: reach, quality, value, and impact. Appendices A-D contain the survey and observation questions we used to make our assessment.


Our analysis focused on four key areas relating to visitors: demographics, opinions, learning, and behaviors. Our survey sample size was 370 visitor groups, while our observation sample size was 35 in Victoria: A Royal Childhood and 30 in Victoria: Woman and Crown. There are some limitations to our analysis as families tended to have insufficient time to take our survey, and we focused our observations only on families to compensate for this lack of family-related data. We list some of our key findings below.


  • Most visitors who responded to the survey lived in the United States and the United Kingdom and had never visited before, similar to previous years, although there was a slight increase in proportion of domestic visitors compared to Summer 2018.
  • Visitors valued different aspects of culture than previous years.


  • In general, visitors felt like they were getting good value for money.
  • The time visitors spent in the exhibits was at the lower end of the expected range.
  • Many visitors raised concerns about sign legibility and crowding.


  • Scores measuring visitor learning were generally higher than or similar to previous years, with one exception possibly relating to flawed methodology.
  • Many people mentioned basic messages, but few mentioned complex ones.


  • Families tended to enjoy multisensory elements but also tended to miss some of them.
  • A majority of visitors watched available videos.
  • Adults often guided their children through the exhibits.

From the above analysis, we have identified several recommendations for HRP to help improve Kensington Palace in the short- and long-term. We recognize that some changes we propose may be difficult to implement in a short period of time.

  • We recommend HRP make signage larger and clearer. Findings 9 and 12 indicated that signage in the exhibits was an issue. Addressing this would improve visitor experience.
  • We recommend HRP focus on accessibility to their core audience in the future. HRP made some design decisions in an effort to improve the experience for children. However, based on findings 2, 3, and 14, some of these decisions negatively affected adult visitors, and children tend not to make up a large proportion of Kensington Palace visitors.
  • We recommend HRP continue focusing on immersive exhibits. We noted in finding 10 that Discovery scores were higher for the new exhibits than for the palace in 2018 We also noted that the new exhibits show several of the common interpretation methods used by other museums. Thus, we recommend HRP continue creating exhibits similar to Victoria: A Royal Childhood and Victoria: Woman and Crown