At the National Museum of American History, we want to know what you think—so we ask!
Every day at the museum, visitors can visit a board in Flag Hall inviting them to “Talk Back,” with us and with each other. The TalkBack Board asks questions about current events, museum exhibitions, or a topic in history that happened on that particular day. Visitors can respond to our questions on Post-It notes, read comments left by others, and even take photos of the boards. Since January 2011, over 10,000 visitors have posted responses to questions like:
- Which female leaders have inspired you and how?
- What do you believe is worth standing up for?
- Who is your favorite president and why?
Today we're unveiling a new website that will continue the conversation sparked by the TalkBack Boards outside the museum walls. Each Tuesday, we’ll post a question and some responses from museum visitors on #TalkBackTuesdays. Check out the questions, read visitor responses, and add your own thoughts to the conversation. Expanding the program online will broaden the conversations started in the museum: just because you aren’t in the building doesn’t mean your voice can’t be heard.
When you post a comment, whether at the museum or online, your thoughts become a part of the Smithsonian’s operations. Responses on the TalkBack Boards have been used to help inform exhibition development, providing the museum staff with data that improves its ability to ask questions that will spark discussion and interest. Educators, curators, and designers alike have benefited from hearing visitor feedback about objects like Dorothy’s ruby slippers and issues like the museum’s mission.
For me, the most interesting part of the program has been reading the variety of personal responses shared by visitors who come from all over the world, fostering a sense of community discussion. Just last week, a teacher visiting the museum let us know that she was inspired by the TalkBack Boards to do something similar in her classroom.
Susan Evans is Daily Programs and Theater Coordinator at the National Museum of American History.