Material Cultures Seminar on February 18 Features Erica Kelly and Her Research on Museum Exhibits and Their Visitors

What happens when visitors encounter objects in a museum environment?  What do they bring to that encounter, and what do they take away? How do we know? And what can the exhibit developers, curators, and designers who create experiences in museums do with that information?

 Erica Kelly, senior exhibit developer at the San Diego Natural History Museum, will present  “Engaging Objects:  Museum Exhibits and their Visitors” at 12 noon on Thursday, February 18, at the Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities on Vanderbilt’s main campus. Kelly will offer a glimpse of the rich and surprising world of research on museum visitors and how museum practitioners can use this information to co-create—not dictate—the visitor experience.

Kelly oversees exhibit content development, interpretative planning, and evaluation of the visitor experience at the San Diego Natural History Museum.  In San Diego and previously at The Field Museum in Chicago, she has developed approximately 50,000 square feet of permanent, temporary, and traveling exhibitions on the natural world and human culture.   She is also co-author, with paleontologist Richard Kissel of the Peabody Natural History Museum at Yale, of Evolving Planet: Four Billion Years of Life on Earth, published by Abrams Books for Young Readers.  She holds a BFA in Theater from New York University and an MA from Northwestern.

Participants in the Warren Center’s Material Cultures seminar and guests are invited to attend, and lunch will be served.  For more information, contact Joy Ramirez, seminar coordinator, at 615.343.6060  or

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