Research and Teaching

Perhaps ironically, you are unlikely to ever see the vast majority of the research and writing that Paul B. Sturtevant does. That’s because he is an Audience Research Specialist for The Smithsonian Institution. In this, he works for the Smithsonian Organization and Audience Research unit to make the Smithsonian a better place to visit. His particular expertise is in open-ended, unstructured qualitative interviewing. In layperson’s terms, that means sitting down with individuals or small groups and gathering their experiences in their own words. That makes Dr. Sturtevant, effectively, a professional listener.

Because of the sensitive nature of much of the material he works on, Dr. Sturtevant cannot discuss the work he does at the Smithsonian except in very broad strokes. He is proudest of the work he has done to understand teenage visitors to the museums and make the space better suited to meet their needs, the work he did for the first year of the National Museum of African American History and Culture’s opening to better understand what motivated its visitors to come, and the work he did to help the Freer Museum of Asian Art rethink their visitor engagement.

His work for the Smithsonian informs his work as an historian; it gives him a wealth of experience looking deeply at how people understand and learn about history. It has given him expertise as a history communicator, and made Dr. Sturtevant an expert at understanding what different audiences want out of their “edu-tainment”.

Dr. Sturtevant has also taught on all of these various expertises — whether museum, medieval, or both — at five universities. He also teaches his research methods to Smithsonian interns and fellows each year, and given many lectures for a wide range of audiences. For more, see his public speaking page.

My research contributed to the wall panel you see here in the Smithsonian Asian Art Museum
The beginning of the NMAAHC slavery and freedom exhibition where I have worked to understand audiences
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