Event | Museums Association Conference I
Margot Walker prepares for this year's Museums Association Conference in Glasgow...
Visiting museums is part of who I am….
I’m on my way to Glasgow for this year's Museums Association conference via Liverpool
to see friends and check out the latest cultural hangouts. I can’t help myself,
my whole upbringing has fuelled a curious nature, an urge to travel and consume
culture. I can frequently be found in museums, picking up a heritage trail by foot,
by bike or virtually. To me this is the norm though more and more
through my work with The Audience Agency I realise that my preference is not
reflected by the majority of the population.
Over the past 18 months I have been working with museums of
all forms and sizes with specialist and broad historical collections as part of
Visitor Finder (now Audience Finder). It
has been a peach of a job, lots of travel, far too much coffee and a chance to
meet wonderful people – the museum makers.
I take my hat off to them trying to balance the demands of dwindling public funding and remaining relevant and vibrant places in a competitive leisure and cultural world.
Alongside these demands, there seems to be little reward or
recognition for their high quality and often innovative work. Museums serve
communities in so many ways, but they often lack the resources to actually make
the most of their collections or even to tell the wider community and potential
funding/collaborative partners about the work they do. Consequently, the impact of projects is often
short lived and it’s back to the drawing board to find more funding to support
vital work. So, I’m keen to help
museum makers understand more about audiences and set realistic plans for
growth and/or change based on evidence which could have an enduring effect and
Often museum makers reflect that if they were in business
they would depend on market research to develop their products and gain
competitive edge – somehow the connection has not been made that this is also
necessary in the cultural world too.
The good news is that thanks to our
data crunching we now have evidence and learning to share
and compare with. This means I now have a pretty good idea of visitor behaviour and in
particular what motivates people to visit a museum. In a nutshell it is thus:
museums are a social space – nine out of 10 people visit with someone else and the number one motivation is to spend time with friends and family. Beyond that, visitors are
looking for a memorable experience – often, but not always - to learn, it can be
to reflect and enjoy the atmosphere.
Also it tells me that I’m not alone in my quest as 11% of people say their main motivation to attend a museum is because ‘museums reflect an important part of who I am’.
I look forward to meeting
other like minded folk in Glasgow at #museums2016