The Collaboration for Ongoing Visitor Experience Studies values transparency, innovation, accountability, and connection. In particular, we seek to be transparent in our processes and decisions and accountable to each COVES member and the broader museum field. With those values in mind, we are sharing core aspects of the system behind our ongoing visitor experience survey. We hope that, by sharing our practices, processes, and instruments, we will support the field in innovating, collaborating, and connecting more with each other and with our visitor.

filling-out-survey-webCOVES Instrument

The core questions that make up the COVES instrument are neither revolutionary nor proprietary. Instead, as this downloadable document shows, the questions are quite straightforward. They may even seem reductive, but we have found that these questions are key to helping museums remain aware of the fundamental elements of the visitor experience. In this document, you will find (1) the question language, (2) the answer options, and (3) brief descriptions of the purpose for including each question in the core survey.

Pilot Study ReportData Collection Pilot Study

We worked hard to figure out the best data collection process for the COVES exit survey. Read the 2-page summary of our pilot study to learn more about how the exit survey stood up to an exit interview, emailed post-survey, and more.

Sample dashboard viewOnline Dashboard

One of the most informative and beneficial aspects of being part of the COVES initiative is the ability to track your museum’s visitor feedback each month, compare it over time, AND compare it with other COVES members! All of this day to day comparison is accomplished through the online dashboard that each COVES museum receives as part of the COVES system. Watch this video and take a virtual tour of the dashboard with Alex!

2018-aggregate-reportAggregate Report

Peruse our 2017-2018 aggregate report of the data gathered through the COVES. This report reviews a full year of data that was collectively gathered at 19 museums. Though your institution may not be a part of the COVES initiative yet, we hope that this aggregate report may spur conversations about who your visitors are, why they come, and what they thought about their experiences and time at your museum.

COVES is a fledgling initiative, just recently moving beyond the initial IMLS-supported period and shifting to a membership model where museums of all types and sizes pay an annual membership to support the costs of maintaining the COVES system (the survey platform, online dashboard, data cleaning, statistical analyses, etc.). These annual aggregate reports and subsequent conversations will only become stronger and more nuanced and informative as more museums feed into this field-driven effort by joining, collecting data, and engaging in discussions with COVES colleagues and members to understand what we can learn and how we can change and grow to better meet our visitors’ needs.


COVES now has an official YouTube site! Check it out, subscribe to it, share videos, and help us think about what topics we should capture on video!


data-interpretationInterpreting Data: Become a more critical consumer of data!

Science World in Vancouver, British Columbia, has created a set of tools and training materials to help their staff better understand data, what findings might mean (or not) and how to understand correlation and causation. This COVES partner institution has graciously agreed to share their materials with all of us! Check out a brief slide show here.