All exhibition teams want to inspire and engage audiences through their displays, so how is it that many fall short of their original aspiration? The answer is simple – if you work for a museum you are no longer like a visitor. Too often we forget this, we assume that visitors will behave in the way we want them to, that they will have the same knowledge, motivations and interests as ourselves. evaluation and research can illuminate these differences. Understanding motivation to visit, audiences’ attitudes and knowledge of a subject, their expectation of your Institution, what they value in the experiences you provide as well as how visitors learn in exhibition can help museum teams develop better displays. Research prior to the development of an exhibition provides valuable clues as to the direction the museum team should proceed in, challenge that need to be addressed and fruitful ways to proceed. Evaluation during development can identify potential barriers to visitors; learning that need to be removed. Summative evaluation conducted once the project has been completed enables teams to assess the extent to which an exhibition has inspired and engaged its audiences. It also provides the opportunity to identify unexpected lessons. this presentation explores the gap between exhibitions team’s intent and visitors’ actual behavior and reactions, drawing on examples from a wide range of research and from a wide range of institutions.