Exhibitions are crucial to museums. After all, that is what most people come to museums to see.
But how important are changing exhibitions to visitors? Do they drive attendance? Membership? Or are people fairly content with permanent exhibitions?
We were recently asked what our existing data sets say about museum visitors and changing exhibitions, and while our data is limited in scope-we’ve never explicitly asked about this topic-we were able to pull out some interesting points that can start to give us an idea of the value of changing exhibitions.
We examined four different research projects to answer this query:
- National study of children’s museums (2007; n>5,000)
- International study of science centers and museums (2008; n>15,000)
- National study of outdoor history museums (2008; n>5,500)
- International study of a wide variety of museums (2010; n>40,000); broken down by:
- Art museums
- History-based museums
- Children’s museums
- Science centers
For each of these studies we recruited individual museums to send an e-mail blast to their list, asking people to take a survey on behalf of the museum, meaning survey respondents were core museum visitors, not infrequent or more casual visitors. Additionally, for the analysis for this query, responses were primarily from two questions about how the museum that sent the survey request out falls short in meeting expectations, or what it does well. Thus, when we say “their” museum, respondents were thinking of the museum that e-mailed them in the first place.
There were four primary ways we could look at the data, comparing:
- How different audience segments viewed the exhibitions quality at the museum they responded to when asked what “their” museum does well
- Those who specifically said “their” museum had “good exhibits” against the overall samples
- Respondents who wrote-in that they specifically wanted more changing or temporary exhibitions, comparing them against the overall samples
- How respondents from different genres of museums responded differently (or not)
Over the next couple of posts we’ll examine the data and share what we learned.
What do you think, and what do you think we’ll find? Do you think changing exhibitions make happier visitors? Improve visitation? Provide a good bang for your museum’s budget? Or are they a drain on time and resources for little return? We would love your thoughts. Simply click on “comments” below to share your thoughts (and if you are reading this from your e-mail subscription, go to our blog to comment).