Leading Museums, Museum Leaders

Museum vs Gallery Visitor

Museums & Galleries of NSW, Guess who’s going to the Museum?, 22 September 2015

After 18 months of exhaustive analysis and data collection we now know that there is an average museum audience and it differs from the average gallery audience in the following ways.

Museum audiences have:

  • a higher percentage of intra-state and interstate tourists
  • a higher percentage of males
  • a higher percentage of 65+ and retirees
  • higher levels of annual household income, and
  • a higher level of first-time visitors

In addition, they are more likely to:

  • involve social groups (including children)
  • stay longer
  • cite “word of mouth” as a source of information
  • be motivated to see the general collection
  • rate the experience as “terrific”

They are less likely to:

  • attend a public program
  • attend performing arts events
  • come alone

The median household income of the typical museum audience is $80,000 pa and when compared to the general population, there is a higher frequency of post high-school education represented, with around half having completed at least one tertiary degree. One fifth finished formal education in high school, and collectively, individuals are as likely to be a return visitor as they are to be a first-time visitor. Museum audiences value the social aspects of attending; over half come with family and friends and around a quarter attend with their spouse or partner.

Only a small percentage declare that they don’t use the internet (5%) and many report the importance of printed publications, including the local newspaper, as the source of information about their visit.

Tourists (those who live more than 50 km from the museum) are equally likely to stay in paid accommodation as with family or friends, with around a third of those visiting a region staying four nights or more. Just under half of all tourists surveyed were in the 45-64 age range, and were as likely to attend with their “spouse or partner”, with “family and friends with children”, or with “family and friends without children”.

Museum audiences go to “connect with local history” and to “learn new things”. Those aged 15-24 are more driven by the latter, with the 65 and over group being more likely to want to encounter local history.

There were several similarities confirmed between gallery and museum audiences and these include:

  • a desire to connect with and support communities
  • a noticeable proportion of tourists
  • a predominately female demographic
  • a representation of lower income groups
  • a representation of older age groups
  • a likeliness to attend the cinema and use public libraries

Importantly too, both audiences express “very high” levels of satisfaction with their visitor experience, with almost all rating their museum or gallery visit as either good or terrific,  highlighting the quality of exhibitions and the service provided by volunteers and staff for particular praise.

The report was launched this week in Wagga Wagga by Michael Brealey, Director Policy and Strategy with Arts NSW. It was warmly received with several people commenting on the importance and timeliness of the research. Julie Baird Newcastle Museum Manager said:

“The information gathered from this project tells a detailed story of who our audiences are, what inspires them and how we compare to other similar museums. Some of the results are really surprising. It is the unexpected and unknown that is always the most fascinating”.

If you would like to know more about museum audiences, read the full report.

Council of Australasian Museum Directors, c/o Ms Daryl Karp, Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House PO Box 3934 Manuka, Australian Capital Territory 2603 Australia, © CAMD 2021
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