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Mapping the Museum Industry


Meredith Foley, ‘Mapping the Museum Industry’, 10 November 2014

For some time, CAMD and other museum sector organisations have been talking to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) and other Government bodies about the ever widening gap in statistical information concerning the museum sector.

The last museum industry sector survey: Museums, Australia, 2007-08 (ABS cat. no. 8560.0) was published as part of an ABS Service Industry Survey (SIS) which has now been discontinued.

The recent decision by the ABS to apparently discontinue its whole cultural and recreation statistics program only serves to exacerbate a serious and continuing problem for the museum industry in mapping the changing size, nature and impact of museums.

Many cultural institutions and organisations, including CAMD, have written to and lobbied the Federal Government and relevant agencies since the announcement in June by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) that it would discontinue its cultural data collection.

Some further information has been released by the ABS which said in a recent ArtsHub* news item that there had been a misunderstanding regarding the June announcement.

‘There was a bit of misunderstanding regarding this issue. The ABS is committed to and sees an ongoing benefit to continuing our data collections in culture, sport and recreation, said Dizem Ramadan, Communications Representative at ABS.

‘The change in our work programs relate to the analysis and distribution of these statistics in the form of a publication, which will no longer be undertaken due to resourcing. Individuals or groups interested in obtaining these statistics will be able to do so for their own analysis. The data will continue to be collected as normal.’

It would appear that the Meeting of Cultural Ministers (formerly the Cultural Ministers Council) is working to pick up some of this data collection and release.  It announced at its October meeting that it ‘endorsed work to secure the continued collection of core cultural data, which will support national cultural statistics collection from 2015-16’.  Most recent indications are that it will continue to make data available on cultural participation in the arts (including children’s participation) and Government funding of culture.

CAMD has a working party in place, chaired by Rose Hiscock (Director, Powerhouse Museum) looking at the development of potential partnerships to gather further data about the museum industry.  It is also an issue which has been taken up by the new Museum and Galleries Australia Alliance (CAMD, Museums Australia, the Council of Australian Art Museum Directors and ICOM-Australia).

The museum industry represents a significant part of the arts and culture sector which plays a major role in the national economy.  On any objective criteria it is also clear that ‘museums matter’ in terms of the cultural life of the nation.  It is critical that Government at all levels and the industry have access to accurate data to use in considering the contribution of museums and on which to base key resourcing, investment and marketing decisions.

Meredith Foley
CAMD Executive Officer

*See also Madeleine Dore ‘Update: saving cultural data’, ArtsHub, Wednesday 5 November 2014 (may involve paywall).