Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts


Art and Design

First Advisor

Lisa Fontaine


Current museum exhibit design models take designers through stages of defining goals, developing products or exhibits, and implementing the design. The models are intended for a staff of various experts who are expected to use their talents in creating an effective, meaningful exhibit that conveys a particular message. In many cases however, a single curator whose expertise is not in the field of design or visual communication, is given the task of designing exhibits. Curators may or may not have a few staff members or volunteers to help in the design process, but the lack of graphic design or visual communication expertise leaves out much of the know-how necessary in order to develop an intended message of an exhibit. This thesis proposes a Content Assessment Tool (CAT) that can be used as a tool to implement communication theory into the exhibit design process. The CAT was created by using Berlo's communication model (Source, Message, Channel, and Receiver) as a framework that was then elaborated on to accommodate the instructional, graphic, narrative and interactive components that all go into exhibit design. To understand how the CAT can work as an evaluation tool and to demonstrate the necessity of such a tool, four small Iowa history museum curators were interviewed about each museum's design process. Exhibits from each museum were photo-documented and two from each museum were then selected to be evaluate with the Content Assessment Tool. The findings revealed a significant weakness for museums in the development of exhibit graphics in generating and enhancing an intended message. All museums, even museums with experts on staff, that wish to enhance or strengthen the narrative of exhibits could benefit from such an addition as the CAT within their design process.


Copyright Owner

Kimberly Rene Topp



Date Available


File Format


File Size

85 pages