The transformation of the former Material Culture Gallery at St Fagans to Oriel 1, opened in 2007, was an experiment not only in new content but also in interpretive techniques and engaging with the public. As such, it is an important litmus test in updating the intellectual direction of St Fagans and understanding the role of gallery displays within an open-air museum.
Evaluation has informed every stage in the process of creating the Belonging exhibition in Oriel 1. The interpretation strategy was heavily influenced by current thinking regarding the role of museum visitors in the production of meaning. It drew on the Inspiring Learning for All framework and current research in the fields of education, museology and interpretation theory, in particular the work of George Hein (1998), Eilean Hooper-Greenhill (2002), Louise J. Ravelli (2006) and Freeman Tilden (1957). Public consultation took the form of a baseline survey of visitor opinions of the old gallery compared with a follow-up survey undertaken after the opening of the new exhibition. Focus groups were used to give feedback during the planning stages, as well as giving reactions to the finished product. Visitor tracking and feedback posts were other methods employed to understand how users interacted with the exhibits. This has given us a rich source of data which will inform not only the future evolution of the gallery, which will include constant updates and changes - but also our contemporary collecting methodology and the future development of the museum.