We’re tired of online!

While conducting a heap of focus groups for several clients recently (~ ten groups / 80 people), I asked participants about how they wanted to interact with museums, galleries, etc online. Their answer? They don’t!


While many reported accessing cultural activities online during the pandemic, the majority are NOT interested in any further online engagement with cultural institutions because:

  • They are tired of screens
  • Parents, in particular, want screen-free experiences for their children
  • They much prefer to interact physically:
    • Even if chances of visiting are slim (e.g. overseas museums)
    • Pandemic reinforced importance of a physical experience
    • Hard to replicate the ‘real’ in an online setting, for museums and galleries in particular
  • Museum visiting is inherently social:
    • They don’t see online experiences as social…

What did they say?

  • After 2 years of not being able to attend things in person I would way rather see everything in real life.
  • Virtual tours are nice but not the same experience as being there.
  • The ability to touch and feel and view in person is more important to me.
  • I like a holistic experience. Like to discuss what I am viewing with my partner.
  • I guess post-COVID, everyone wants to step out and do things.
  • I’m happy to use ‘virtual’ things that are part of the exhibition but still need to be there to appreciate. Wouldn’t join from home.
  • I work on a computer for 8+ hours each day, last thing I want to do is log on for social / cultural activities.
  • Attended online comedy show in COVID. Good, but didn’t enjoy so wouldn’t rush back. Was just to support the artist.
  • I’d do anything to reduce my and my child’s time on a screen.

What about other audiences?

In a study I conducted in 2019 with teachers, they had pretty much the same feelings when comparing digital excursions to physical ones.

Although many teachers regularly access and value digital programs and resources for their classroom teaching – so maybe for them it’s a mixture of both, when they can get out of the classroom.

What now?

This is interesting to me and maybe worth asking what is best for our sector to invest in regarding in online programming? Be keen to see some stats and / or hear dissenting views…

Which leads me to my final question. Are we tired of online? Or are we just tired?!


5 thoughts on “We’re tired of online!

  1. Lyndall Linaker says:

    That is an interesting finding. If you follow MuseumNext then you know that many museums are continuing to build their online presence because of the continuing Covid pandemic and the broadening of their digital reach while their doors were shut. Even when their doors opened the visitor numbers were way down compared with pre-Covid so most places were still connecting to audiences online. It would be interesting to see whether younger audiences choose online and older prefer “in person” visitation. I can see that making collections accessible for research via digitisation is really important but perhaps exhibitions are not as attractive delivered in an online format.

    • Michelle says:

      I agree re segmenting the audiences to see who wants to ‘get back to normal’. I work in the GLAM sector and prefer exhibitions in person but I’m still attending online events with overseas organisations I discovered during lockdown. A lot of them did surveys to ask whether people still wanted online offerings once lockdowns started easing and they have all continued to provide both.

  2. Michelle says:

    Re: ‘often just a lecture’ a shout out to the State Library of NSW Education team – they offered some great interactive learning experiences during lockdown – there was a storytelling zoom that involved drawing a map of an imaginary place that was well-managed, just the right length and fun.

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