Many museums have evolved, through sporadic acquisitions and the generous bequests of benefactors, to hold a diverse range of objects, often housed in older heritage buildings. A misconception exists that the contemporary non-museum-going audience, these can seem imposing mausoleums, filled with curious ‘dead stuff’ set in the past and bearing little personal relevance. Museums located beyond the convenience of a city centre face the further challenge of attracting visitors who are less mobile (financially and physically) in a competitive leisure market.
Audience Finder data, however, shows us that museums are evolving to bridge this gap. In fact, a remarkable 52% of people visited a museum in 2016/17 and an even greater 74% visited a heritage site.There are clear examples of museums reaching and connecting with their local communities and contributing to important political agendas of social cohesion, improving health and wellbeing and boosting the visitor economy. Successful museums are using this data to build their resilience, influence funders and form collaborative partnerships.
Following the refresh of the Museums Accreditation Scheme in November 2018, museums will be asked to demonstrate a sound knowledge of audiences and their needs in order to achieve the standard. Audience Finder can help your museum bridge the data gaps. It offers a range of resources to support audience development planning and a free research toolkit to undertake your own visitor research.
"Museum audiences are less dominated by 'high arts engagers' than most forms of culture and are more representative of the population. What we see in museums, then, is a broad array of cultural experiences that meet the needs of a wide range of people, including those who typically face more barriers to engagement."
Margot Walker, Head of Community Partnerships and Museums lead