What is COVES?

COVES (“Collaboration for Ongoing Visitor Experience Studies”) is a system that provides for the ongoing collection of meaningful data about museum* visitors, allowing museum leaders to make data-informed decisions, while providing relevant points of comparison within our industry.

* The COVES initiative, system, and instrument was originally focused on the experiences and needs of science centers. Now that the basic instrument and data collection system is functioning, the initiative is ready to support museums of all types: anthropology, aquaria, art, history museums or historic sites, botanical and zoological, science, natural history, children’s, planetarium, and visitor center. As of February 2022, COVES participants currently include 37 participating institutions that identify as: 20 science centers, 4 natural history museums, 9 art museums, and 4 children’s museum.

Why is it needed?

This system is designed by museum professionals, for museum professionals. By leveraging research tools within the field where they exist, we can build evaluation capacity where it doesn’t—and we can also stay true to the measurement issues that matter most to us.

COVES is designed to unite museums across the country in launching an effort to systematically collect, analyze, and report on visitor experience data. By facilitating collaboration and discussion, developing common instruments, and providing training on how to use these instruments and make sense of findings, COVES enables museums of all types to become data-driven organizations focused on their audiences while providing a platform that allows museums to learn from one another.