By Abbie McPhie, Audience Research Manager, National Museum of Australia
As the new Audience Research Manager at the National Museum of Australia and being (relatively) new to working in the museums sector, the MGA 2018 conference and the MEET day held prior to the conference represented a significant opportunity for me to reflect on the issues impacting the sector and what these mean for audience research and evaluation.
A few common themes stand out, and pose some questions for the industry:
- We need to understand who is not currently attending our institutions, and why. Are they being excluded from our institutions in some way? In what ways? And why does our content appeal to our current audience – might this partially explain why it doesn’t appeal to, or even actively excludes, other audiences.
- For smaller museums and galleries, audience research is front and centre as they receive feedback directly and often, and can see the immediate impact of changes made on the basis of this feedback. For larger institutions, budgets will usually allow for some form of audience research and evaluation (even if this isn’t always done!). But for mid-sized organisations (under 100,000 visitors / under 50 staff), audience research and evaluation is often unable to be budgeted and not front and centre in day to day work. How do we support mid-sized museums and galleries in understanding their audiences and measuring success.
- And finally, there are still a number of institutions and museum professionals for whom measuring success is in itself still a new concept – how do we support the introduction of a culture of evaluation throughout the industry?
I have a few immediate thoughts: getting institutions in the habit of understanding what their objectives are in any given piece of work (the ‘why’ factor) will help with understanding how to measure their success, and example template visitor surveys could be developed that would help those who are unsure where to start. But I’d also welcome your thoughts on this – please leave your comments below or contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org.
[Note: Abbie was the recipient of the Evaluation and Visitor Research National Network 2018 conference bursary – thanks for the post!]