The Visitor Studies Association (VSA) seeks to foster a sense of community among colleagues, who gather once a year to pose intriguing questions, explore diverse opinions, debate controversial issues, challenge assumptions and share their successes and their struggles—in essence, to learn from one another.

Navigating the Politics of Visitor Studies
33rd Annual Visitor Studies Association Conference
Marriott Omaha Downtown Capitol District
summer 2021 (dates to be announced)

As people who work with and advocate for visitors, we wear many hats and are responsible for hearing and responding to a range of audiences. We are often negotiating competing needs, trying to challenge the dominant ways of doing things while also adhering to our field’s standards for rigor and accuracy. How do we responsibly use our expertise to represent the diverse voices of current and potential audiences while also serving the specific needs of internal stakeholders? How do we create positive and productive social change and provide space for the joint construction of ideas, compromise, and collaboration?

Building on last year’s theme “Ways of Knowing,” this year we invite attendees to consider how they negotiate different epistemologies and stakeholder needs in their day-to-day work. We know that this negotiation is part of every step of the evaluation process, from research design to data collection to analysis, synthesis, dissemination, and application of findings. Some questions we think this conference will allow speakers and presenters to address include the following:  

  • How do we balance the unique needs of visitors with the diverse perspectives of stakeholders? How do we ensure that our work is representative of all voices?
  • What are the recurring issues we need to constantly negotiate? How do the values that guide our work help us navigate these issues?
  • How do we productively “rock the boat” to advocate for change?
  • How do we build space for shared authority and collaborative storytelling while maintaining and exercising our expertise? 
  • How do we ensure that the interpretation and dissemination of data is meeting the needs of all audiences? How do we effectively and creatively demonstrate the value of our work and encourage use?  
  • How do we represent people in an accurate way in our data? What does accurate mean and who gets to decide? 
  • How can we approach negotiations differently and creatively? When are traditional methods appropriate and where do they fall short when working with a diverse group of stakeholders?  

Be sure to check back regularly as information pertaining to registration, conference lodging, etc. will be updated when available.