Case Studies

Merseyside Maritime Museum – Visitor Experience

National Museums Liverpool (NML) is one of the world’s leading museum organisations. It is England’s only national museum group based wholly outside of London. NML currently comprises eight museums in and around Merseyside. One of these museums is the Merseyside Maritime Museum, located at the Royal Albert Dock


The Maritime Museum contains a variety of objects associated with the social and commercial history of the port of Liverpool. Highlights include ship models, maritime paintings, colourful posters from the golden age of liners and even some full sized vessels. There is also the major exhibition Titanic and Liverpool: the untold story, which tells the story of Liverpool’s links to the ill-fated liner. The Museum also houses the International Slavery Museum as well as the Border Force’s national museum: Seized! The Border and Customs uncovered.

In order to provide visitors with an exceptional visitor experience over the coming years and to feed into a wider Waterfront redevelopment master plan, the museum was looking for a deep understanding of visitor expectations, experiences and their behavior during a visit to the museum.


The Challenge

NML was looking for a market research provider that could deliver a full survey package. This would start from questionnaire design through to fieldwork, analysis and presentation. Protel Fieldwork and XV Insight, a local independent research agency, put forward a joint submission for the tender, combining Protel’s ISO 20252 quality accredited fieldwork capabilities and XV Insight’s research and analysis expertise.

The Solution

The project was built around a robust research plan that was structured across two phases.

Phase 1 consisted of face-to-face interviews and observations, to be carried out across all floors of the museum. This research would primarily focus on current visitor journey, dwell times and the overall visit experience. Further interviews were conducted outside of the museum, in the Royal Albert Dock to capture views of visitors to the Dock, even though they might not be visitors to the museum. In total 1008 interviews and 681 observations over the course of two weeks. These were done on tablet (CAPI) and through pen and paper (PAPI) for the observations.

Phase 2 was defined by the results of the first phase. The research was designed to test and measure visitors reactions and opinions of changes implemented following the de-brief of the Phase 1 results and to delve deeper into topics covered quantitatively in Phase 1. For example, a deeper understanding of how the visitor experience compared to their expectations was needed. Visitors were recruited on arrival and their visit expectations explored. At the end of their visit a follow-up interview established how the experience compared to those expectations. Approximately 130 interviews were conducted overall. Along with Protel’s interviewers, the team from XV Insight were also on-site during Phase 2, conducting a series of qualitative depth interviews with museum visitors. XV Insight collated and analysed the data, and a final presentation was delivered to the client.

The Result

XV Insight and Protel together successfully completed the two-phase research project to time, scope and budget. The learning and insight provided NML with a deep understanding of visitor experiences and behaviour. The results evidenced the strengths of the current museum offer, that typically exceeds visitor expectations and gave insight into aspects of the whole experience that could be further enhanced in the future. This research is therefore putting the visitor at the heart of the strategic development of the museum and will ensure all visitors have great experiences for many years to come.