Painting a Portrait of Organizational Evaluation Capacity in the Canadian Art Museum sector
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Not only is research on program evaluation practice and capacity in art museums largely absent, but also the actual dimensions of evaluation capacity as they could be observed in these unique professional settings have heretofore neither been conceptualized or defined based on empirical data. This study sought to (a) develop a framework that conceptualized what evaluation capacity might look like in art museums and (b) examine how such capacity manifested itself across the framework’s various dimensions both sector-wide and in those Canadian art museums that were most active in conducting a wide range of research and evaluation studies. A two-phase multiple method qualitative research design was used to address the purposes of this research. Phase One involved conducting an interview study to establish an initial knowledge base on Canadian art museum educators’ program evaluation practices and capacities and test the degree to which the initial conceptual framework that was developed to guide this study could be considered an accurate and complete description of evaluation capacity in the Canadian art museum context. Phase Two involved conducting qualitative case studies of two art museums that, based on the interview findings, were identified as operating at the highest level of capacity for evaluation in the country. The study provided the evidence necessary to finalize the initial conceptual framework and concluded that evaluation capacity in Canadian art museums could be described through six central sub-divided dimensions. The study results likewise both painted a portrait of moderate capacity for evaluation across the sector (with smaller pockets of high capacity) and shed empirical light on the phenomenon of developed capacity in selected Canadian art museums. In, demarcating the dimensions that comprise evaluation capacity in art museums, this research makes a significant theoretical contribution to the evaluation literature. Several key recommendations that outline what could be done to strengthen the evaluation capacity of art museums in Canada, meanwhile, represent the main practical implication of this study. These recommendations are likely to be useful not only to the growing number of art museums seeking to integrate evaluation into their organizational cultures but also to several other sectors and organizational types.