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What would you do if a visitor asked a question you don't know the answer too?

  • 1.  What would you do if a visitor asked a question you don't know the answer too?

    Posted 04-17-2024 02:10 PM

    Dear All

    I am wondering what any museum professional would do if a visitor asked a question you don't know the answer too. I am interested in the response and that it is ok nor know but to always be open to learning.



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    Rachel Alschuler
    Museum Education/ Visitor Experience
    San Francisco CA
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  • 2.  RE: What would you do if a visitor asked a question you don't know the answer too?

    Posted 04-18-2024 07:53 AM

    I've always said, "I don't know, but let me see if I can find out for you." And then I would ask a colleague for help.



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    Kathleen Lugarich
    Director, Programs and Education
    Army Historical Foundation
    Fort Belvoir VA
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  • 3.  RE: What would you do if a visitor asked a question you don't know the answer too?

    Posted 04-18-2024 01:02 PM

    Dear All

    Happy to see that continuing to learn is a part of what we do and that it is ok not to know the answer. And to then find out. I think we all should be comfortable with that. Keep the chatting going.

    Thanks,

    Rachel



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    Rachel Alschuler
    Museum Education/ Visitor Experience
    San Francisco CA
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  • 4.  RE: What would you do if a visitor asked a question you don't know the answer too?

    Posted 04-19-2024 05:51 AM
    We Appreciate the question and but we don't answer that we don't know...but say that we are researching the issue and will give back the feedback therefore we ask also their email and respond within 2 days.  

    Regards

    Joyce





  • 5.  RE: What would you do if a visitor asked a question you don't know the answer too?

    Posted 04-19-2024 11:16 AM
    I'm always honest when I don't know something. I usually respond with "let me find out for you!" or "you know, I bet -- would know. Let me find them."

    It also means the visitor can trust when we say "oh yes, I know about [this other topic]" because they know that we would speak up if we don't know something. 

    It sets a good example that professionals don't have to know every single thing as well, and that there's no failing in admitting to not knowing something. 

    In general I think that being honest when we don't know the answer means that we can have a more honest discourse. 






  • 6.  RE: What would you do if a visitor asked a question you don't know the answer too?

    Posted 04-19-2024 04:01 PM

    Dear All

    I enjoy all your feedback and different approaches to the question. I look forward to more insight.

    Thanks,

    Rachel



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    Rachel Alschuler
    Museum Education/ Visitor Experience
    San Francisco CA
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  • 7.  RE: What would you do if a visitor asked a question you don't know the answer too?

    Posted 04-18-2024 08:23 AM

    We get them all the time.  I instruct my team to simply say "I don't know."   It's better to say they don't know than to make something up.  Also, logically, if there is someone else nearby who might know the answer the staff person can ask them, or direct the visitor to them.  On the rare occasion when staff is truly stumped, and the visitor REALLY wants an answer, we would take their information and try to find the answer.

     

     

     

     






  • 8.  RE: What would you do if a visitor asked a question you don't know the answer too?

    Posted 04-18-2024 09:28 AM

    Hi Rachel -

    Those are my favorite questions because it makes me research the topic and prepares me for the next time the question is asked.

    I tell the visitor I don't know that's a great question let me find the answer and get back to you. If they don't have time to wait, I get their contact information and reply ASAP usually that day or the following day.



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    Kary Goetz
    Museum Technician
    Fort Sill National Historic Landmark & Museum
    Fort Sill OK
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  • 9.  RE: What would you do if a visitor asked a question you don't know the answer too?

    Posted 04-18-2024 12:36 PM

    HI Rachel,

    As someone who creates and gives public tours and works in STEAM, this happens frequently.  I usually start with: what a great question! and then say "I don't know" or "I'm not sure".  Depending on the sitaution and question, I may offer to find out the answer and get back to them.  But if at all possible, I try to turn it into a learning experience with and for them.  So for example: if I'm able to reason out the answer I try to do that and draw them into the reasoning process. Or I may provide reliable references or ways for them to find the answer and/or engage the asker in a conversation about where and how they might determine the answer  - i.e. teaching them how to be a learner and creator of knowledge themselves. This is great with youth in particular, but can be fun and helpful for all ages.



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    Julia Beabout
    Creative Director, Novaby AR Studio
    Novaby
    julia.beabout@novaby.com
    (206) 595-7213
    www.novaby.com
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  • 10.  RE: What would you do if a visitor asked a question you don't know the answer too?

    Posted 04-19-2024 09:38 AM

    Hi Rachel, 

    I've been teaching for 20 years, an undergrad non-Western art history survey and cultures such as India do not have early written records such as the Indus Valley began in 3300 BCE. Although China has the longest recorded history, I tell them it's important to be aware of the translation sources and its a good teaching moment for bias awareness. That said, I tell them that it is a matter of interpretation, from scholars and non-experts alike. So if it's a question I can't answer, I am very curious to hear what they think and discuss with them validating their viewpoint and pointing them in a direction to explore more. It's one of the reasons I changed the traditional art history paper to write on an object in the museum to a first person report whereby they selected what to write about as long as it was in the content area of study. This expands the museum space  for wonder, speculating and play! What has come back to me has both astonished and humbled me. They leave the course with more self- confidence from pursuing and satisfying their curiosity and appreciation. Don't we all have the greatest job!



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    Terri McNichol
    President
    www.renassociates.com
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  • 11.  RE: What would you do if a visitor asked a question you don't know the answer too?

    Posted 04-19-2024 02:59 PM

    Hi Rachel and Co, 

    It seems we're all on the same or similar page here. I get questions I don't know the answer to all the time. I use it as a chance to model to our field trip students that adults don't know all of the answers and that the best part of science is that we're all still learning new things. The fact I don't know something becomes part of the less. I actually had a whiteboard list at a summer camp of "Things Carolyn doesn't know yet" and we added to it all week and I sent their parents an email at the end of the week with some answers. We do extensive training with our volunteers so they feel comfortable saying "I don't know" and never feel pressured to come up with an answer/make something up. We encourage them to offer an adjacent fact ("I don't know how old that spider is specifically but I do know that that females of that species can live to around 20 years") that helps get at the bigger picture of the question. I do a lot making my thinking visual for students and the public by saying something like "I don't know how old that spider is but we got her ___ years ago and she was full grown, that leads me to think she was at least _____ when we got her which would make her at least ____ now" to show the thought process. 

    Hope this helps and you embrace the unknown. 



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    Carolyn Taber
    Museum Educator
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