This report demonstrates the breadth of people museums are able to engage through their diverse appeal, collections, learning activities and specialist knowledge.
The Museums and Heritage sector is one of Britain’s finest cultural assets, encompassing over 1700 accredited museums. A remarkable 52% of people visited a museum in 2016/17 and an even greater 74% visited a heritage site.
Many museums have evolved, through sporadic acquisitions and the generous bequests of benefactors, to hold a diverse range of objects, often housed in older heritage buildings. For the contemporary non-museum-going audience, these can seem imposing mausoleums, filled with curious ‘dead stuff’ set in the past and bearing little personal relevance. Museums located beyond the convenience of a city centre face the further challenge of attracting visitors who are less mobile (financially and physically) in a competitive leisure market.
The Audience Finder data, however, shows us that museums are evolving to bridge this gap. There are clear examples of museums reaching and connecting with their local communities and contributing to important political agendas of social cohesion, improving health and wellbeing and boosting the visitor economy. Successful museums are using this data to build their resilience, influence funders and form collaborative partnerships.
This report is based on a sample of 39,318 visitors from 105 varied museums – those managed by local authorities, independent trusts, universities and national museums – collected in the 2017/18 benchmark year. The museums range in scale from specialist to broad collections, offering uniquely different visitor experiences. The report offers comprehensive insights into the demographic profile and behaviour of visitors, comparing them with patterns for other forms of arts and culture. Individual museums can use this national benchmark as a comparator for their own findings using Audience Finder dashboard analytics, as well as comparing to population data and other cultural organisations by region. More broadly, the report serves to illuminate how England’s amazing range of museums is able to serve such a vast cross-section of its people.