it comes to science museums, and who Core Visitors feel are best served at the
science museums, it became clear: Core Visitors feel that
children are the primary audience.
And in our recent research on science museum visitors, we saw a few too many comments like this one: “My son is now a bit too old for the science center.”
We believe that science museums are important places for life-long learning and not just for children, but do adult Core Visitors feel the same? And is there a difference between who they think the museum serves best and what they actually want from the museum?
The data shows mixed results for these questions. So let’s pick through them to see what conclusions we can draw.
As mentioned above, for the topline, or overall results, Core Visitors feel that children and their families are the best served audience at the science museum - 81% feel this way. Additionally, 59% of respondents felt that students visiting with their class were best served. Only 22% of respondents felt adults were best served, and just 17% said likewise for teens. (Respondents could choose more than one response to the question of who they thought the science museum served best.)
Yet when we analyzed the respondents based on how they answered this question, we did find some important differences. Primarily, those who indicated adults and/or teens were more engaged themselves with the science museum. They were significantly more likely to define themselves as being “curious,” were more likely to cite philanthropic reasons, rather than budgetary ones, as a reason for financially supporting the museum, and were much more positive about the museum overall. 60% of these respondents said that they felt the museum met their needs well, significantly higher than the 39% overall who felt this way. Additionally, they enjoyed visiting a wider variety of museums than other respondents. In short, these respondents were much more likely to be Museum Advocates than other respondents.
Demographically, these respondents were significantly less likely to be parents of minor children, only half versus 2/3 of the overall sample. Corresponding to that, respondents were less likely to be in their 30s and 40s, the age segments for most of the parents responding, reflecting the influx of Core Visitor parents that visit science museums. Interestingly, while the majority of respondents are still female, males were a greater proportion of this sample, 32% vs. 27% overall. Otherwise, there were no major differences.
Clearly, though, lifestage made a difference in how respondents answered the question on who was served best, with parents less likely to think about adults and teens while those who are not parents of minor children were more likely to say adults and teens.
Similarly, lifestage made a difference in what people wanted from the science museum. That is, adults in their 20s wanted more content for adults. Adults in their 30s wanted more for younger kids. Adults in their 40s wanted more for older kids. And adults over 50 wanted more for adults.
Or, put another way, what individuals want from the science museums revolves around whether or not they have minor children in their lives, and if so, the age of those minor children.
We will be taking the next couple of weeks off over the holidays, but in January we plan to dip back into the challenges raised in this post, examining the engaged adults, but in particular delving into the responses of 30 and 40-something moms who come to the museum with her children, but who do not think adults are well-served . . . . and don’t expect it either. There is a story there, and we are looking forward to sharing it!
In the meantime, we would love to hear your thoughts and questions about these topics. To share or ask questions, simply click on “comments” below. (If you are reading this from your e-mail subscription to the blog, please go to our blog's website to add a comment.)