The “Museum Constant”: One-third plus or minus a bit


Skeletons visit the museum

That thorny question – why do people visit museums and how can we attract more of them?

Molly Hood’s work found that six concepts affect the decisions that people make about their leisure choices: being with people (social interaction); doing something worthwhile for the self or others; feeling comfortable and at ease in the surroundings; challenging new experiences; the opportunity to learn and actively participating.

The paper, The “Museum Constant”: One-third plus or minus a bit, by Rob Hall of Environmetrics, an evaluation and research consultancy that has worked across the cultural and leisure sectors for many, many years, gives further insights into the motivations for museum visits.


As well as attracting out-of-town visitors, many museums depend on the patronage of local residents and are expected to reach and serve the local population. This paper explores the question “What proportion of the local population can museums expect to attract?”, using data on museum visitation collected by means of a population-based sample survey repeated each six months from July 1991 to February 2004 in Sydney, Australia. The links between reported museum visiting and self-described personality attributes are also explored. The findings suggest that there is a limit to the audience for museums and that this limit appears to be driven by people’s preferences for conceptual cognitive activity. According to the survey data, approximately one-third of the population of Sydney visits a museum, gallery or exhibition at least once in a six month period, and two-thirds of the population claim to have visited a specific museum at least once in their lifetime.

The full paper can be downloaded here: rob-hall-2005. This post came about from presenting a workshop at the Shoalhaven Regional Gallery – more on those outcomes here: Audience Research 101.



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