Thanks to her Signature Experience Award, Nicole Ursin, a junior double majoring in history and anthropology, will present her research at the Society for Applied Anthropology Conference in Philadelphia, April 3-7.
During the fall 2017 semester, Ursin was one of 79 University of Arkansas at Little Rock students to be awarded $1,000 from Chancellor Andrew Rogerson’s undergraduate research grant program to offset costs for a one-semester project or experience in research or creative works.
“The Signature Experience Awards are allowing students to achieve more with their academic research,” Ursin said. “I would not have been able to afford this trip to Philadelphia without it.”
With a financial burden lifted, Ursin was able to focus on her conference presentation and the progression of her project, “Understanding Museum Demographics: Historic Arkansas Museum.”
“I’ve interned and worked in museums for the past three years,” Ursin said. “My goal was to do a project that showed the complexities of museums and addressed one of the problems that museums are facing.”
Through her research, Ursin found that most museums design exhibits and programs to attract diverse audiences, but in reality, typically draw crowds of little demographic diversity. To understand why this happens, Ursin began investigating the demographics of museum visitors in Little Rock.
“To reach diverse audiences, museums must first understand the factors driving the demographics they presently represent,” she said.
During the summer of 2017, Ursin begin collecting data from visitors and employees at Historic Arkansas Museum. She later analyzed her findings, interviewed museum professionals, and researched the racial issues concerning museums. Finally, she sought to develop a definition of diversity that would be applicable to Arkansas museums.
“This project has strengthened my interest in museum anthropology and has made me more interested in how museums can diversify their exhibits and audiences,” Ursin said.
Ursin’s project is a direct reflection of a suggestion proposed by the American Association of Museums in 2010 that promoted fieldwork that would contribute to tourism and heritage studies in America.
Ursin is currently in the final stages of her project, composing a detailed write-up of her work for local museum professionals, which she will present at the conference, as well as drafting an article for publication in anthropology or museum study journals.
After graduating from UA Little Rock in 2019, Ursin plans to pursue a master’s degree in museum anthropology, and afterward, work for a museum.