Tuesday, May 08, 2007

What are the most effective ways to recruit new audiences and build repeat visitations to a cultural institution?

This question came from Alison Wishart, State Library of Queensland (who promises to blog a response!): "My assumption is that one of the most effective ways is to give school students, who visit the cultural institution with their school group, an exciting and rewarding experience so that the students then go home and tell their parents about the fantastic cultural institution and the family visits as a group again and again. Is there any written research in this area that you could point me to?"

Alison, research that I know of has continually found that the characteristic which most impacts on adult museum visits is whether they were taken to museums as children and the types of experiences they engaged in. The "big picture" references are:
* Falk, J., & Dierking, L. (1992). The Museum Experience. Washington: Whalesback Books.
* Falk, J., & Dierking, L. (2000). Learning from Museums: Visitor Experiences and the Making of Meaning. Walnut Creek: AltaMira Press.

Prince investigated a range of attitudes and perceptions that were key to museum visiting. He found that visitors’ previous experiences with museums, as well as with learning and education generally, determined whether people then visited museums and the subsequent experiences they remembered. The reference for his work is:
* Prince, D. (1990). Factors Influencing Museum Visits: An Empirical Evaluation of Audience Selection. Museum Management and Curatorship, 9, 149-168.

Other references for these conclusions from a family perspective are:
* Ellenbogen, K. (2002). Museums in Family Life: An Ethnographic Case Study. In G. Leinhardt & K. Crowley & K. Knutson (Eds.), Learning Conversations in Museums (pp. 81-101). Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
* Ellenbogen, K., Luke, J., & Dierking, L. (2004). Family Learning Research in Museums: An Emerging Disciplinary Matrix? Science Education, 88(Supplement 1), S48-S58.

and from a school-visit perspective are:
* Falk, J., & Dierking, L. (1997). School Field trips: Assessing Their Long-Term Impact. Curator, 40(3), 211-218.

The latter is particularly useful. A general overview of school visits and museums, with a comprehensive reference list is:
* Griffin, J. (2004). Research on Students and Museums: Looking More Closely at the Students in School Groups. Science Education, 88(Supplement 1), S60-S70.

I'm not sure if there have been any long-term tracking studies of visitation, but certainly Ellen's work is worth checking out.

Of course your broader question about new audiences generally is a whole new area but I have started small here. The big issue of how to attract and keep youth audiences (for example) can be found on here on my website. We also found in our study of audiences with disabilities that if museums offered great learning experiences, not just accessible ones, these groups would visit more regularly (and bring a whole lot more people with them).

Look forward to hearing from you.

1 comment:

Alison Wishart said...

Thanks for all these references Lynda - they are very helpful. SLQ is doing some more visitor/audience surveying soon, and this will be a useful reference. Much appreciated.