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Visitor experiences in cultural institutions are rapidly evolving. As time progresses, the museum is seen as a forum for debate, an advocate for social justice, a necessary supplement to a formal education, and an inclusive environment for all. These changes test visitor experience departments as institutions host more events, programs expand beyond museum walls, and interactions with visitors enter challenging territory. Join us in Philadelphia this October to take the next step in fostering this new age in culture and promoting the idea of an inclusive experience for all our visitors.

Keynote: Morris Vogel

  • Morris J. Vogel has been president of New York’s Lower East Side Tenement Museum since 2008. He trained as an American social and urban historian at Brandeis University (B.A. 1967) and the University of Chicago (Ph.D. 1974), before joining the faculty of Temple University in Philadelphia in 1973, where he was promoted to professor in 1985. He served in a number of leadership roles within Temple’s College of Liberal Arts, acting as dean of the College from 1999 through 2003. He subsequently directed the Rockefeller Foundation’s Creativity and Culture Program. Vogel is the author or editor of six books in American social and cultural history, including The Invention of the Modern Hospital and Cultural Connections. He co-founded and directed the National Endowment for the Humanities-funded Mid-Atlantic Regional Center for the Humanities. While a Pennsylvanian, Vogel served on the Commonwealth’s Historic Preservation Board. Vogel was born in Kazakhstan, where his mother and father were stateless refugees. He and his wife Ruth—a clinical psychologist—live in Manhattan; they have two adult sons.


Signature Session: Monica O. Montgomery

  • Monica O. Montgomery is an international keynote, graduate professor, museum director and cultural entrepreneur, curating media and museums to be in service to society. As a sought after public speaker and coach for executives and career changers, she frequently trains leaders and partners with universities and museums to facilitate diversity, leadership pipelines, equity & inclusion initiatives. She is the founding director of Museum of Impact, the world’s first mobile social justice museum inspiring action at the intersection of art, activism, self and society. Monica is the Strategic Director of Museum Hue, a multicultural platform championing diversity and people of color, in arts, culture museums and creative economy.


Sessions and Panels

  • Does Your Community Feel Welcomed?

    • Molly Uline-Olmstead, Columbus Museum of Art

    • Ryan Cairney, Former Ohio History Connection

      • We don’t always see barriers to our institutions ﴾physical, mental, social﴿ that prevent community members from feeling welcome. Our staff are our greatest asset in defining and defeating those barriers. This session will model strategies to empower our teams to take on issues participants are grappling with in their institutions.

  • Leveraging Data for Growth at the Georgia Aquarium

    • Beach Clark, Georgia Aquarium

      • Ranked the number one Aquarium in the United States by TripAdvisor, Georgia Aquarium will serve more than 2.4 million guests this year. The aquarium manages for growth by leveraging data for crowd management, attendance forecasting and measuring guest sentiment and satisfaction. Beach Clark, VP , Data Science and Data Acquisition Technology will discuss their data journey, and how they improved guest satisfaction scores by 10% while increasing attendance by 20%.

      • Download Beach’s presentation.

  • Exceptionally Human Visitor Experience:  Ancient communication strategies for modern times  

    • Brian Shapiro, President, Shapiro Communications

      • 2,300 years ago, Aristotle discovered the three key elements of communication success: Trust, Emotions, and Reason.  In today’s distracted world, these three pillars are as relevant as ever.  Combining research with uplifting storytelling, this program guides participants through hands-on exercises that allow them to discover how mindful adjustments to their current communication practices produce more positive and memorable experiences for all those who visit and work at their cultural institutions.

      • Download Brian’s presentation and handout.

  • The Visitor Journey Map: The Next Step in defining the experience

    • Jessica Sharpe, Philadelphia Museum of Art

      • The next step in visitor experience management is creating a focused approach to the overall experience journey. This session will walk through the process of journey mapping. Participants will learn the fundamentals of creating an experience journey and the process for facilitating an experience mapping workshop in your own organization.

      • Download Jessica’s presentation

  • Taking Steps Towards Visitor Insights Driving Change and Practice

    • Sheri Levinsky-Raskin, Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum

    • Marina Guiomar, Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum

    • Jessica Williams, Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum

    • Jennifer Fugina, Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum

      • Session attendees will discuss two studies conducted at the Intrepid Museum that led to new wayfinding methods and exhibition development practices. Exploring examples of front‐end assessments, user‐testing, and prototyping, group discussions will generate ideas for steps cultural institutions can take to incorporate visitor insights to be responsive, accessible and inclusive.

  • A Museum Without a Door: Maintaining Visitor Experience During Major Construction

    • Audrey Stoltz, Museum of Modern Art

    • Fotini Lane, Museum of Modern Art

    • Garrett Smith, Museum of Modern Art

      • Over the next two years MoMA will be undergoing extensive construction that will greatly affect essential public spaces. Already strained on high attendance days, the Main Lobby will be reduced by 60%. In this presentation, we will share strategies for remaining open, including planning, testing, and adapting during construction.

  • If Chinese Checkers is the Answer, what is the Question?

    • Adrian Tissier, National Trust, England

      • To be successful in a game of strategy like Chinese Checkers you need to follow some simple rules of planning and forward thinking. Can we apply those same rules of strategic thinking in order to plan a consistent, high quality, long-term program of visitor engagement that delivers experiences with emotional impact? With examples from National Trust heritage sites across the UK we will explore the secrets of success.

      • Download Adrian’s presentation and reference materials

  • Opening space to hold difficult conversations: The Open Conversation Series at The Phillips Collection

    • Kelley Daley, The Phillips Collections

      • The Phillips Collection created “Open Conversation” in the fall of 2016, in the midst of political strain and great divide in America. Modeled after a town hall, the program allows visitors to engage in a dialogue surrounded by art. This session will outline the development and success of the program. The program creates a platform through which the museum can respond in a timely fashion to important current events, such as the refugee crisis, racial injustices occurring in America, and sexism in the media. Through this program, The Phillips Collection provides a space of inclusion and shared authority for visitors.

  • Consultants as a Form of Team Building and Internal Reflections

    • Andrea Feller, Arizona State University Art Museum

    • Kathryn Medill, Arizona State University Art Museum

      • In order to properly address museum visitor issues of today, a strong team is needed. We sought consultants as a way to enhance our team and move our mission forward. Learn how our consultant experience strengthened our team and see if these experiences can be applied to your institution.

  • Asking Advocates to Advocate: Educating Leadership about the Visitor Experience

    • Molly Uline-Olmstead, Columbus Museum of Art

    • Ryan Cairney, Former Ohio History Connection

      • Often, visitor experience professionals are thought of as interchangeable. The natural evolution of VE professionals is to become more integrated and knowledgeable at every level of museum operation. This session will provide strategies for talking to and engaging leadership about the importance of professional development and opportunities for VE pros. 

  • Techniques for Building a Culture of Customer Service

    • Christopher Dorman, Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania

      • Providing exceptional customer service to visitors is a vital component of the health and well‐being of all cultural organizations. This session will explore techniques for building a culture of customer service within your frontline team.

  • VEX Group Activity – Tackling Challenges with Different Perspectives

    • After a day of thought-provoking discussion, join us for a fast-paced networking/team building activity designed to not only connect you with your colleagues, but also send you home with a tool you can use at your own institution to foster understanding and collaboration among your team members.  This year’s activity focuses on perspective and how we all have a different one.  Participants will receive firsthand experience in both the benefits and challenges of working with others, taking a closer look at the old adage “two heads are better than one.”

    • Download the VEX 2017 Team Building Activity Outline

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