In our recent e-newsletter, archived here, we shared that older men are “awesome.” And, indeed, in our studies of outdoor history museum visitors and science museum visitors, they emerged as the most engaged, happiest audience segment at those types of museums.
But does that mean they are highly engaged at all types of museums?
The answer is. . . . . no.
In our recent study of Connecticut Cultural Consumers, funded by the Connecticut Humanities Council for Connecticut Landmarks, men over the age of 60 simply did not “pop” like in the other studies. Women over 60 responded at twice the rate of men over 60, and were clearly more engaged by visiting more often, and enjoying a wider variety of cultural activities.
But why is this? We believe the primary reason is subject matter. Older museum-going men, as seen in our research, are very self-motivated to explore topics that are of great interest to them. Outdoor history museums and science museums are natural places to immerse oneself in the topics that older men tend to gravitate towards, such as blacksmithing, construction, and engineering.
In contrast, the organizations participating in the Connecticut project included art museums, historic house museums, historical societies, history museums, and a performing arts group. These organizations tend not to as naturally provide those types of opportunities that men seek out.
Yet there may be opportunities for these types of museums to reach out to older men and engage them. In those previous studies, older men did indicate that what they enjoyed about outdoor history museums and science museums was the time and ability to work with their hands, and with others, doing the kinds of labor that they did not do in their professional lives. As retirees, they are seeking out those opportunities. Creating those kinds of opportunities may help museums better attract, and engage, older men.
Has your museum had particular success with older men? To share your stories or 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.) Please include the name of your museum as well!