We have been asked to share some of
our previous research articles more broadly, and this blog is the
perfect way to do so. We will continue to archive our e-newsletters
articles here so that you have the opportunity to share them, and
comment back to us!
Over the past three issues we have
explored visitation patterns of young families at science-based museums,
history-based museums, art museums, and botanical gardens/arboretums. This
data, from a national survey of visitors and members of children's museums, has
helped us shed light on why young families visit other types of museums, and
when they do so over the course of the family life cycle.
Our research also asked these visitors and members what they thought about diversity in their museum and in their communities. With nearly 5500 responses, we were able to analyze these responses by demographic characteristics, including education and race/ethnicity. We expected the results to be interesting. But the results were more than interesting. They shed fascinating light on opinions of diversity, and presented some stark differences in how different groups think, or do not think, about the topic.
How important is diversity to a museum?
When it comes to children's museums, 66% of respondents felt that the museum was doing a good representing different races, cultures, and ethnicities. An additional 28% were not sure, or had not noticed. We also asked respondents how important did they feel it is to expose their children to diversity. 65% of respondents said it was very important, 31% said somewhat important, and 4% said it was not important.
We wanted to know how important it really was to these parents, so we looked to see how these different groups responded to other questions. First, we found that the more important it was to the respondent, the more engaged they were with the children's museum. That is, those who said it was very important were significantly more likely to visit more often, and donate, than those who said it was not important.
But we had a hunch that those who said it was "somewhat" important in reality did not care one way or the other. And when we compared their responses to those who felt it was very important, we found two absolutely stunning results. Those who felt it was very important were 4.5 TIMES more likely to seek diverse populations, and 4.5 TIMES more likely to seek diverse and integrated communities. Those are tremendous differences, telling us that those who said it was only somewhat important, really, did not care so long as diversity did not get in the way of their lives.
Who feels strongly about diversity?
In determining who it was that felt so strongly about diversity in their community, and their museum, we discovered two key correlations: the educational level and the race/ethnicity of the respondent.
As seen in the graph below, with education the respondent was significantly more likely to seek to expose their children to diversity, and to seek a diverse and integrated community. They were also less likely to say the museum was doing a good job exposing their child to diversity, not feeling that they were doing a bad job, but feeling that the museum could do more.
The other major factor was the race or ethnicity of the respondent, which, as seen in the graph below, made a tremendous difference in the responses. African Americans were the most likely to want to expose their children to diversity, the most likely to seek diverse and integrated communities, and the most critical of how the museum deals with diversity. Caucasians, on the other hand, felt significantly less strongly on all of these issues. Asian Americans and Hispanics fell in between. It just was not as important an issue to Whites.
Why is this relevant?
Although there were major differences in responses to the diversity questions, we should not lose sight of a couple of important points.
First, the majority of the core audience for children's museums feels strongly about exposing their children to diversity, and they look to museums of all kinds to help them do this. We see this as a green light for museums of all types to continue to push to represent different races, cultures, and ethnicities in their programs, exhibits, and outreach efforts.
And second, the responses of African Americans, Asian Americans, and Hispanics, both on these questions and in their attendance patterns at other types of museums, tells us that while museums are working to attract diverse audiences, more needs to be done to truly reach and engage them on a personal, and regular, basis.
To learn more
This short article only scratches the surface of the research we conducted on this and related topics. Please feel free to comment below with any additional questions or thoughts. If you missed any of the earlier issues, examining young family visitation at science-based museums, history-based museums, or art museums and botanical gardens/arboretums, simply let us know.