Reflections on the #MGAConf2018 for Audience Research and Evaluation

 

2018 conf image

@feraldata #meetday2108

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 abbie.mcphie@nma.gov.au.

[Note: Abbie was the recipient of the Evaluation and Visitor Research National Network 2018 conference bursary – thanks for the post!]

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2 thoughts on “Reflections on the #MGAConf2018 for Audience Research and Evaluation

  1. lyndalllinaker says:

    I agree with you Abbie. I firmly believe that you need to know your audience in order to grow your membership and increase the engagement to welcome new visitors. One problem for me as an audience researcher is that increasingly I can observe but not get feedback from some of our overseas tourists because I only really speak English. Many times I’ve observed issues in smaller museums not connecting with their multicultural audiences outside, even when the exhibition inside the museum has been specifically designed to connect with that same target audience. I guess inside the museum has to reflect outside if we are to have returning, loyal local participants.

    • Abbie McPhie says:

      Thanks for your response, it’s a very good point – and in my experience, for some Museums a multicultural audience is also not considered (or considered as well as it could be) within the content as well, possibly in part because it is more difficult to understand what that audience needs to connect to that content. The NMA is currently attempting to speak more with our overseas visitor audience, including piloting interviewing with Mandarin-speakers in coming weeks, more often – but it isn’t easy!

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