People who love visiting museums are different than the general public. Yet, as we explored last month, even among museum visitors there are differences between those who visit and join museums because they are supposed to do so for their children (becoming core visitors who are not necessarily personally engaged with the museum) and those Museum Advocates who genuinely love (and are emotionally connected to) museums. The question then becomes how are Museum Advocates different than everyone else - and how can we convert more museum visitors into Museum Advocates?
In our recent lifestyle survey of adults in their 20s and 30s we took a look at the data to see just how Museum Advocates are different. What we found was that those who love museums think, spend their leisure time, and connect to their world differently. And they are pretty interesting people to boot.
So what exactly did we find? First of all, the percentage of individuals who are Museum Advocates does not change with age; either they love visiting museums, or they do not. But what museums they actually visit does change with lifestage. That is, specific museum visitation is often determined by the age of any children in their lives.
Museum Advocates also tend to have, not unexpectedly, higher educational attainment than the rest of the population, and their parents tend to have higher educational attainment as well. We believe this indicates that most Museum Advocates grew up visiting museums with their well-educated parents, and these family experiences nurtured a love of museums that continues today. Promising news as college educational attainment continues to increase, but one big question is what other pathways exist to create Museum Advocates out of some of the 72% of adults without college degrees.
Social and Connected . . . By Choice
The image of the young adult glued to the computer screen all the time is not true of Museum Advocates. While they are heavy users of technology to facilitate their lives, it certainly does not take the place of real-life socialization and activities (though they do expect, simply expect, wireless Internet access in public places). Instead, they are more likely than the general public to seek out public places for those with similar interests to meet, such as book clubs or knitting groups. They are more active socializers with their friends, and they are seeking public places to meet up with peers and family.
Omnivorous Cultural Consumers
These busy adults in their 20s and 30s are also wide-ranging in their cultural interests. They are much more likely to cite reading books and magazines as an enjoyable way of spending their leisure time. These Museum Advocates are also significantly more likely than their peers to enjoy travel, live theatre, classical music and opera, and live music. Unsurprisingly, then, cultural activities are far more important to them than to the general public.
Curating Their Lives
Compared to the general public that does not self-identify as enjoying visiting museums, these younger Museum Advocates are much more creative and keyed into aesthetics than their peers. They are customizing their belongings, and curating their lives, by making careful, thoughtful selections based on individual taste and what image those selections project. They feel much more strongly that their stuff reflects their personality and should simply look different than other people's stuff. And they also feel more strongly that home is a refection of their identity.
How do they do this? By customizing their clothing, fashion accessories, cell phones and iPods, virtual spaces, and their personal spaces, both at home and at work. They are also significantly more likely to create or view arts and crafts, including photography, scrapbooking, journaling and/or blogging, going to crafts fairs, and participating in children's art activities.
Socially and Environmentally Aware
Compared with the general public, Museum Advocates are more philanthropic, and living greener lives. They are more likely to donate money to charity, volunteer, and to purchase products that help causes they care about. Additionally, they practice what they preach by actively recycling, buying organic and/or local foods, seeking greener transportation, spending more for a green product, and changing their lifestyle to live more lightly on the planet - all to a greater extent than their peers who are not as emotionally connected to museums.
A Refuge for the Family
Young adult Museum Advocates, with their busy lives, are also seeking places of refuge. They are much more likely to seek out quiet spaces, away from crowds, and to think of home as a place of retreat and sanctuary. Additionally, those Museum Advocates that are already parents are more likely than other parents to identify family learning as being a top priority in their lives, especially outdoor family opportunities.
Museum Advocates and Adults in their 20s and 30s
So what does this mean for museums? Clearly, the things that Museum Advocates love to do, and the activities they undertake to help society and the planet, correlate extremely well with the missions of museums. Additionally, we believe that many of the traits that set Museum Advocates apart among young adults are representative of Museum Advocates of all ages. Thus, the question then becomes how do we grow the Museum Advocates audience, converting more of our core visitors and the general public into Museum Advocates? We might not have the answers now, but this research does begin to shed light on where an individual museum might tap into a larger audience base. Additionally, it gives us some ideas of how museums can continue to evolve to better serve adults in their 20s and 30s and become even more important in their lives.
For museums hoping to reach more Museum Advocates, especially those that are in their 20s and 30s, some questions to consider:
- Can museums become the hangout for Generation Ys in their 20s?
- Can museums become the top choice for family learning and family time?
- Can museums encourage more social engagement?
- How can museums help individuals curate their lives?
- How can museums encourage and inspire creativity?
- How can museums promote cultural engagement?
- How can museums become a place of refuge and retreat for more people?
Over the next few months we will continue to dig further and learn more about what sets Museum Advocates apart, and what we can do to instill that emotional connection to museums in more children and adults. Stay tuned!
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