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San Diego Latino, Asian and African American Qualitative Research Report
Commissioned by the San Diego Natural History Museum

November, 2001

Background and Objectives | Reseach Design | Limitations of the Research | Executive Summary | Conclusions and Recommendations | Findings

Background and Objectives

The San Diego Natural History Museum and Campbell Mithun Advertising were interested in gaining a comprehensive understanding of the African Americans/Latinos/Asians in the San Diego area. More specifically, the museum wanted to:

  • Explore the propensity for African American/Latino/Asian consumers to visit museums
  • Learn African American/Latino/Asian consumers’ attitudes towards museums
  • Assess what San Diego Natural History Museum could do to attract more visitors
To achieve an optimum exchange of ideas, opinions and attitudes from respondents, a focus group methodology was appropriate for this study. Three focus groups were conducted in San Diego as follows:

  • One group comprised of mixed gender bilingual Latinos
  • One group comprised of mixed gender African Americans
  • One group comprised of mixed gender bilingual Asians (Filipinos, Chinese, Vietnamese)

All potential respondents for these groups were screened for participation by the following criteria:

  • Must be self-identified as African American/Asian/Latino
  • Ages: 25 to 54 (Mix of ages)
  • Mixed gender
  • Income: 25K+ (Mix of income levels)
  • Asian and Latino groups to be assimilated bilinguals
  • Must have visited any of the Natural History Museums, Art Museums, Special Interest Museums, Cultural & History Museums, Botanical Gardens, or Aquariums at least once in the past 3 years
  • No employment (nor any household member) in marketing research, public relations, advertising, media, museums, or any form of arts and humanities industries.
  • No participation in a focus group discussion in past 12 months.

All focus groups were conducted in English by same-ethnicity, ETC moderators.

Limitations of the Reseach

It should be noted that this research was conducted with a relatively small sample. Conclusions drawn from this type of qualitative study should be made with caution. Ideally, the results of these focus groups will be used to develop hypotheses to be tested in quantitative research.

Executive Summary

Museums in General

  • The Aerospace Museum emerged as respondents’ overall favorite museum. For the most part, they preferred museums that offer positive experiences for their children. Hands-on, experiential exhibits were frequently mentioned as positive attractions.
  • Many respondents indicated a desire for bilingual information and signage (Spanish, Chinese).
  • Most respondents did not use the Internet for information about museums. Rather, they used:
  • Magazines/newspapers
  • Teachers/schools
  • Banners
  • Recommendations from friends and family members
  • AAA guide books (Asians only)

When discussing past museum visits, stand out programs. Exhibits/services included:

  • Special holiday events and exhibits (free holiday admission and special Christmas exhibits)
  • Historical exhibits (Holocaust, Japanese Internment)
  • Summer programs
  • Interactive events/exhibits
  • Guided tours
  • Special "deals" for local residents

San Diego Natural History Museum

  • All respondents were aware of and positive about the museum’s renovation.
  • Visits to the museum ranged from one hour (primarily Latinos) to all day (primarily African Americans).
  • Respondents felt that the museum does not do enough publicity and, therefore, believed that many people are unaware of it.
  • Admission fees were a problem that respondents faced. Many participants expressed a desire for family discounts or discount coupons.
  • Exhibits:
  • Note: All exhibits were reviewed on an aided basis (see concept statements in appendix)

Monarca: Butterfly Beyond Boundaries
Monarca received mixed reviews. Some respondents found the exhibit interesting; others were not particularly interested in it.

Natural Treasures: Past and Present
Many respondents were positive about this exhibit. Some were interested in seeing more in-depth "behind the scenes" work done at museums. Others were intrigued by the ability to watch live rattlesnakes from a safe viewing environment. The Asians were particularly interested in learning about the natural history of San Diego.

Desert and Sea: Visions of Baja, California
Asian participants were especially interested in this exhibit and appeared fascinated by its artistic photography. The African Americans liked on the hands-on demonstration, while the Latinos were not interested in it at all.

Nature & Eye
While Latino respondents were not positive about this exhibit, the African Americans and Asians liked it. They felt it was especially beneficial for children.

T. Rex on Trial
Overall, this was the most popular exhibit. Some respondents said it was unique when compared to other dinosaur exhibits they had seen. All respondents felt this exhibit was good for children.

Rare Places in a Rare Light: The Wildlands Photography of Robert Turner
All respondents were intrigued with this exhibit, even though only a few of them knew of Robert Turner.

After the Dinosaurs: When Crocodiles Ruled
There were mixed responses to this exhibit. Some respondents found it interesting; others felt it had nothing to do with San Diego. Most felt their children would be interested in the exhibit.

  • Program booklet:
    Overall, respondents very impressed with the program booklet, particularly by the extensive offering of programs, classes and activities. Most were unaware that the Museum featured such an extensive offering. Some said it was the best form advertising they had seen for any museum and wondered were they could obtain the program booklet (outside of the Museum).
  • Attracting more visitors:
    Overall, respondents said the family discounts and discount coupons would encourage visits to the museum. They also agreed that the museum must do more advertising and be visible at some community events.
  • Bilingual advertising would also tend to increase visitations.
  • Conclusions and Recommendations

    All respondents felt that the San Diego Natural History Museum needs to do more advertising. Many were unaware of the programs and exhibits offered. They said there was an overall lack of information about the museum.

    The museum needs to consider re-structuring its advertising in order to reach out to its potential Latino, African American and Asian visitors. Respondents suggested:

    • Flags and banners on San Diego streets
    • Dissemination of information via schools
    • Pamphlets in hotel lobbies and other high traffic areas
    • More community involvement (e.g. booths at local ethnic festivals and other events)

    Public Service announcements on local television might stimulate interest in the museum.

    Give-away campaigns involving local, on-air personalities might be another consideration.

    All respondents were concerned about admission prices and requested family discounts and/or discount coupons.

    A program for family and/or individual discounts should be investigated and implemented. A co-op plan with the Auto Club would be an immediate way to offer discounts.

    Discount coupons sent to schools and businesses or made available at markets would encourage attendance. If coupons are placed in markets, be certain to include those that cater specifically to Latinos and Asians.

    While the Latino and Asian focus group participants were bilingual and could read and understand English, they felt that bilingual information would encourage more people to visit the museum. Often siting extended family that could not speak/read English.

    African American participants, were somewhat irritated by the suggestion of bilingual materials.

    The preparation of promotional, program and exhibit information in Spanish and, probably, Chinese, would be costly but would tend to increase attendance. Having this information in their native languages would make Latinos and Chinese feel welcome at the museum and would allow for greater understanding of the exhibits there. Bilingual signage within the museum should also be considered. The Museum may also consider audio taped narratives offered in several languages at each exhibit.

    Bilingual museum personnel should be identified so that non-English-speakers will know from whom to seek information and/or directions. Large buttons indicating "I speak Spanish" or "I speak Mandarin" will easily accomplish this.

    Visitation length at the museum ranged from one hour (Latinos) to all day (African Americans). It is possible that Latinos stay such a short time because of language barriers.

    African American respondents said that they like having a picnic area so that they can take a lunch break before continuing through the Museum.

    Again, bilingual information and signage would make native language speakers feel more welcome and, thus, would encourage a longer stay at the museum.

    If clean picnic areas are not already available, they should be considered.

    All three groups studied (Asian, African American and Latino) tend to be child-centered and respond to marketing that furthers the education of their children.

    Take this into consideration when planning new creative.



    Museums in General
    Latino respondents listed the following as qualities that make a museum destination attractive to them:

    • Special, interesting exhibits (Ansel Adams, Jurassic Park, Foreign Art)
    • Interactive programs for children
    • Special programs (IMAX presentations)
    • Relatable issues (Ancestry, World Culture, World History)
    • Interior design
    • Interior lighting
    • Easy access
    • Convenient location

    Respondents’ favorite museums included:

    • Aerospace Museum
    • The Sports Hall of Fame Museum
    • Natural History Museum
    • Maritime Museum
    • Museum of Man
    • Museum of Art

    "I’ve always liked the Aerospace Museum. San Diego has a tremendous aviation history. Younger kids can interact with pilots from World War II and Korea and Vietnam and that really gives them a sense of history."

    "The Aerospace Museum is a no-brainer, especially with boys."

    "I’ve always liked the Natural History Museum. If you really wanted to study something, you could do it. You can hear the growling of the animals, and so it’s almost becoming like theater."

    "Maritime Museum. It was really interesting. I work downtown and I took my younger son and we walked through there and it was awesome. Underneath they had a lid on the ship crossing the ocean. You walk next door and there were boat models."

    "I like the Museum of Man, Darwin theory, not that I particularly believe in that, but it’s interesting."

    "My favorite museum is the Museum of Art in Balboa Park. I have a background in art history and art appreciation. To be able to go into a museum and without really realizing it, see technique and brush strokes or subject matter and it just clicks in my head, Oh that’s a Van Gogh. Once I can start doing that, it piques my interest and then I look forward to going to other parts of the museum."

    The sources that the respondents use most often to gather/gain information about the museum were:

    • Magazines
    • Newspaper
    • Banners
    • Teachers

    However, the majority of the respondents did not use the Internet to get information on museums.

    "For me it’s the Reader Magazine."

    "There’s something in the Thursday Tribune and The Insider. It talks about the goings on in San Diego, like exhibits."

    "About a month ago, there were these banners on Broadway that they hang from the lampposts, they advertise on these banners."

    Respondents said that they have seen the information on museums explained in Spanish. However, most respondents felt that the information available was mostly in English and expressed a need to have the bilingual materials.

    "I see them in the Latin Newspaper."

    "It’s mostly in English."

    "At my old school, it was bilingual and anything that was sent home was both in English and Spanish. Sometimes it was sent by the school, but often the museums provided a little note explaining what the museum was providing."

    Respondents were asked to choose their top two most desirable museums. The Aerospace Museum and the Museum of Man were two most popular museums. Other museums mentioned were:

    • Art Museum
    • Maritime Museum
    • Natural History Museum
    • Children’s Museum
    "If the kids are into it, I’m into it too. I’m mostly into kid stuff right now, and they like the Aerospace Museum."

    "I like the Museum of Man. I find that their exhibits are fascinating."

    "First is the Art Museum. I love all arts and sculptures."

    "The Maritime Museum. It is really interesting."

    "Because of the interests of my two boys, the Children’s Museum."

    "Well the Natural History Museum is about a year old because it’s gone through a lot of renovations. It is going to have a lot of draw. The last one they had was fascinating. You actually became part of a body."

    When asked about any programs or services that stood out in their past museum visits, the respondents mentioned the following:

    • Special holiday events and exhibits (Free holiday admission and special Christmas exhibits)
    • Special historical exhibits (Holocaust, Japanese Internment)
    • Summer programs (Drawing classes, summer program for children)

    "Once a year at Christmas time they have a Christmas program and all of the museums are free except for special exhibits, you still have to pay to get in, but if that’s considered a program, then that’s fantastic."

    "It’s a museum based on the Holocaust, every year they visit. They have something similar to that regarding the Japanese internment after Pearl Harbor."

    "My wife was involved in a very short summer school program. The art museum had one. You pay a certain amount of money for a week. You get to tour the museum; they teach you different technique;, and you get to use different brushes. You get to bring home the work; you get a little bit of an education."

    "My boys have been in the Aerospace Summer Cadet Program. They teach them the various flights, they make a plane, and you get to see how a plane is reconstructed. It’s put on by the museum."

    Most respondents said that they were interested in programs that would entice children’s interests. However, they expressed the lack of available information about programs and services provided by the museums.

    "I would get my kids more involved if there were more programs out there that I was aware of. If there was a better way of getting the word out, I would go more with the kids."

    "I would be interested in educational classes for myself as well as for the kids."

    "For me, there’s a lack of information. There are special programs and lectures and things that you’ve talked about, I know very little about that. If I knew about them through advertisement or on television, I think that I would attend some of those."

    San Diego Natural History Museum
    Respondents described San Diego Natural History Museum as:

    • Newly renovated
    • Interesting exhibits
    • Appealing name
    • Place to learn evolutionary history

    "It’s inviting. It has gone through changes, and it is well lighted. A lot of old stuff has been moved."

    "I think they have an exhibit now with butterflies. That piques my interest. I would go out of my way to see that."

    "The name, it’s a good name. Nature…."

    "I think of evolution and ancient civilizations."

    A majority of the respondents had visited San Diego Natural History Museum, at least, once in the past year. A few respondents reported that they visit the museum more than once a year. They mainly visit the museum with their family, children, and the loved ones. The average length of their visit is around an hour.

    For some of the respondents who have not visited the San Diego Natural History Museum or have not visited there recently, their reasons for not visiting were:

    "My time is limited, I’m really busy. I will eventually go."

    "I’m thinking about it now. Dinosaurs don’t really interest me."

    "It does cost to go into a museum. And it’s going up. When you have a family of four and you’re talking about 20 some dollars to go to the museum for an hour. You pay to go into all of them. I can’t think of any free museum."

    Some of the benefits of going to the San Diego Natural History Museum mentioned by the respondents were:

    • Children’s education
    • Learning history
    • Hands-on learning experience

    "There is history that the kids can learn about."

    "If there is a topic in school that is specific to an item at the museum, then the kids could see it there."

    "I remember one year one of my sons was learning about endangered species in the desert, you could touch the rattle snakes at the museum, you could really get a feel for the subject."

    Respondents were asked to evaluate the current exhibits at the San Diego Natural History Museum. There reactions to the exhibit were:

    Monarca: Butterfly Beyond Boundaries
    Monarca received mixed reviews from the respondents. Some thought that the butterfly exhibits were interesting, where others had no particular interest in that exhibit.

    "What I like is what it said about the butterflies. It would be really cool to walk and have butterflies all around. It would be a good field trip in the spring."

    "I think the kids like… you know, they do make them look at butterflies and how the caterpillar turns into the butterfly. Mine are interested in that. It’ll be catchy for younger kids."

    "I think the exhibition will be appealing for young children because of the oversized models and then it explains about combining the technology and the special effects are really eye catching."

    "Personally, I don’t think I’d go there to see a bunch of butterflies flying around. I don’t think my kids would be very excited about it either."

    Natural Treasures: Past and Present
    Overall, a majority of the respondent said that the rock exhibit did not appeal to them. Some of the respondents were interested in seeing live rattlesnakes under the safe viewing environment.

    "Rocks just don’t do it for most people. You don’t go to a museum to look at a rock. It’s not very appealing. It doesn’t hold your attention. That’s one reason why I don’t go to the Natural History Museum more often, it’s just boring."

    "That doesn’t do anything for me. It’s boring and I would not waste my time going there."

    "It’s cool to see fossils when you’re young and you learn about them. But after awhile it’s all the same."

    "I would like to see a live rattlesnake myself because it’s behind glass and you don’t have to worry about it."

    Desert and Sea: Visions of Baja California
    This exhibit appealed to the respondents who were familiar with the region, Baja, California. However, others expressed that the contents of the exhibit did not interest them.

    "Maybe 60-70 miles past Ensenada, before you get to Cabo San Lucas, there is this pristine patch of land that has been left alone. Birds migrate there. Whales are left alone. Little by little, there is encroachment. This might open our eyes to an area that we should protect."

    "I liked it. I’ve been to Baja and traveled the road from Ensenada to Cabo. It’s kind of desolate and at the same time very beautiful and a very interesting area to study."

    "It didn’t really catch my attention. I just didn’t like it. I’m not really into birds."

    Respondents were, also, asked to evaluate the upcoming exhibits at the San Diego Natural History Museum. There reactions to the exhibit were:

    Nature & Eye
    Most respondents were not interested in seeing this exhibit. They said that only the ones who are interested in photography will be attracted to visit the exhibit.

    "I don’t think that’s interesting."

    "Not catchy to me. It sounds boring."

    "I wouldn’t want to go see it. I read the newspaper a lot. I’d get the information about the winners."

    "You really have to have an interest to go and see this stuff."

    "You pay to go see the works of Ansel Adams or Abadon, somebody you know. But unless it’s a neighborhood child that you know, you’re not really going to be interested in it."

    T. Rex on Trial
    Overall, the respondents found this exhibit most interesting. They praised the creativity of the exhibit. Also, they said that it was unique to other dinosaur exhibits.

    "I like that. That’s really interesting."

    "I think it’s a nice twist to the dinosaurs. They put it in the murder mystery format, you’re participating. It’s interactive. This one I’d go to see."

    "It’s interactive, it’s hands on. I like that for the kids and me. It’s interesting."

    Rare Places in a Rare Light: The Wildlands Photography of Robert Turner
    Many respondents were intrigued with this exhibit. They liked the beauty of the nature captured in the photography. However, a few respondents felt that the photography did not belong in the Natural History Museums.

    "This is something that I might not be able to see myself. And to be able to see pictures of this would interest me."

    "I think this is something that adults could enjoy. I find it romantic also, the pictures are so beautiful. I like it."

    "These are great pictures. These pictures are like nothing I’ve ever seen before."

    "No, I’m not into this. You could see a picture of the Grand Canyon, but unless you’ve been there, it’s not the same thing. It doesn’t do it justice at all."

    "This belongs in the photographic museum or in an art museum."

    After the Dinosaurs: When Crocodiles Ruled
    A majority of the respondents did not find this exhibit interesting. They were not interested in looking at artificially created crocodiles. Some of the respondents said that their children would be interested in this exhibit.

    "I don’t know, crocodiles don’t really appeal to me. I might tune into television and watch something about crocodiles. Just to walk in and not see a real crocodile, that’s not very appealing to me."

    "I don’t want to go to the Natural History Museum to sit in a sauna and look at some fake stuff. It doesn’t do anything."

    "If you can recreate a steamy jungle and what it feels like to be in the swamp, face to face with this creature, what it’s like to study them and so on, I think that might pique the interest and not only that, you know kids equate dinosaurs and crocodile."

    "The kids would be interested in that."

    Respondents said that they were not aware of the programs and services available at the San Diego Natural History Museum. Also, none of the respondents have visited the Museum’s website to gain the information.

    "I haven’t’ heard of any."

    "I’m not aware of it in general."

    Respondents reported that the program booklet stirred up interest in the programs and services provided by the San Diego Natural History Museum. They found it an informative and encouraging source to visit the Museum. Some respondents were also interested in seeing the information on the Internet.

    "I think it’s pretty informative. I didn’t know something like this existed."

    "I’m wondering if they have this at the Information Center at Balboa Park. If they don’t maybe they should. If I saw something like this, I’d certainly pick this up to take a look at the program they have."

    "Where would you find something like this and if there is something specific that I would be interested in, like an adult class, I could just click on something and bypass everything else and get the information I want. That would be important and you would save yourself a lot of printing and mailing."

    "Free open house for educators and teachers. I’m interested in this."

    Some of more attractive exhibits in the booklet chosen by the respondents were:

    • Whale watching adventure
    • Photography workshop
    • The Magic School Bus
    • Train

    "The whale watching adventures. When I was in Baja, I saw some of these pictures live and to see the tail fins come out of the water was amazing."

    "I would go for the whales also because they are our neighbors. The history behind them and how they fought back from near extinction and how we could protect them. We as adults should be sensitive to the plight of the whale and teach our children so they could pass it on."

    "Work shops. Photography work shop is very interesting."

    Respondents were asked to give their opinion on the things that San Diego Natural History Museum could do attract more visitors. Many respondents expressed the need for family discounts. They also mentioned the need for more bilingual materials.

    "Have a discount package. A lot of Latinos have big families. That’s why our field trips are once or twice a year, because of the cost."

    "Having information and presentations translated for adults and students."

    "You could have education centers in Spanish. Possibly in the gift shop you can have some books that are in Spanish."

    Continued >

    Study conducted by Conducted by Erlich Transcultural
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