Bridging Barriers - Abigail Sarver-Verhey

Bridging Barriers - Abigail Sarver-Verhey


Bridging Barriers
A Framework for Effective Evolution and Ecology Communication in Exhibitions
Abigail Sarver-Verhey,University of the Arts Graduate, Missouri Historical Society

Abstract from 2021 SEGD Communication + Place
Natural history museums have a long history of interpreting the natural world. Today, they have become popular informal learning destinations that possess a unique set of tools for communicating natural science to the public in meaningful ways. This article presents a framework that assists exhibit creators in identifying and directly addressing the multifaceted challenges, or barriers, visitors face as they interact with content in exhibitions. It was developed specifically in the context of evolution and ecology exhibitions that explore topics such as fossils, climate change, and human health.

The framework codifies a set of six barriers that form a foundation for developing successful exhibition designs by anticipating visitors’ needs and the challenges they may face in understanding and connecting to evolutionary and ecological science. In response to these barriers, exhibition creators can employ bridges, long proven or newly developed solutions that make exhibitions more welcoming and accessible, educate more effectively, and help visitors form stronger connections between evolutionary and ecological science and their own lives.

An evaluation was conducted to explore how the use of the framework affected visitors’ experiences with a T. rex exhibit. The promising findings suggest that it has the potential to help exhibition creators design evolution and ecology exhibits that promote engagement and foster greater connections to content.

Read more in the 2021 SEGD Communication + Place journal and other papers at

Communication + Place is the official research journal of the Experiential Graphic Design community. Published online, the journal features articles from both academics and professionals advancing the XGD profession through creative research, curriculum development, project reviews, and user-centric testing.