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Co-creation: what value?

There are various motivations to involve audiences in the co-curation and co-creation of exhibitions and activities, such as encouraging ownership, harnessing different perspectives, establishing relevance and fostering longer term relationships. This process of user involvement is increasingly becoming an expected practice, both by institutional leadership and from external parties such as funders, politicians and audiences themselves.

However, does user engagement really establish us as being more significant to our communities and citizens? Or do we dilute our own basis for existence if we choose to blindly follow ‘the needs of our users’? Shouldn’t our institutions plan and create using our specific expertise, which should not be swayed by trends and smart ideas?

During this session, we will explore the role of audience engagement in the development of activity in a range of science institutions, from zoos to science centres to museums, and the effect this process has on staff working practice and visitor experiences. We will encourage discussion on the value, real or perceived, of audience contribution.


Rachel Haydon, ZSL
Senior Learning Manager
Zoological Society of London
United Kingdom

Session speakers

Discovery & Learning Officer
Zoological Society of London
United Kingdom
The Zoological Society of London commissioned research into how multiple interactions with the Zoo impacts students. Targeting London boroughs where zoo visits had declined, we invited teachers, science coordinators and researchers to co-create and examine this programme. With stakeholders prioritising different outcomes, how do we create practical programmes that benefit students at its heart? This presentation explores this process and outlines the surprising range of project outcomes.
Director of Education and of the Centre of Research in Informal Learning
Co-curation and co-creation are increasingly used in our practice, and we are 'encouraged' to include them in building programs. But what do they mean for museum staff or the visitors' experience? An exhibition developed on the Science and Technology of Food engaged two groups, adults and adolescents and although different, both groups, with curators, brought their voice to the exhibition. The speaker focuses on the process of working together and implications of the results.
Pernille Hjort
Head of education and public engagement
København K.
User involvement and co-creation are high on most agendas. With the existence of many public spaces being reviewed in recent years, libraries, museums, churches are being transformed into flexible events spaces. But do we dilute our own basis for existence if we blindly follow the needs of users? Should we be lighthouses, built on knowledge which can’t be defined by trends or smart ideas? Or will user engagement bring us to a more democratic level, more relevant to the community and citizens?