Visitor behaviour and engagement in the museums and heritage sector

Visitor behaviour and engagement in the museums and heritage sector

By Morris Hargreaves McIntyre


This document brings together a vast body of research and experience to demonstrate how research can develop museums’ and galleries’ ambitions, vision, models and methodologies to enable a much more meaningful measure of impact and value.

Museums and galleries collect more visitor data today than ever before.

But how much of it gives us real insight into visitors, motivations, behaviour, experiences and responses? And how much of it simply ticks a box on a funding form?

Commissioned by some of the UK's leading institutions, including Tate, The British Museum, V&A and the Imperial War Museum North, Morris Hargreaves McIntyre has tackled this insight deficit head on.

In doing so, we have helped these organisations to move beyond the data routinely collected to get to the knowledge they actually need.

The models, norms and data presented in this report are the product of a significant programme of research into visitors to UK museums and galleries. Over a 12-month period, this programme included over 8,500 face-to-face interviews with visitors, 48 focus group discussions and 4,500 detailed observations of visitor behaviour. In short, this is both rich and rigorous data.

We found that the measures favoured by funders are simply too reductive. How many curators are inspired by, challenged by, or even interested in, their performance indicators?

Our aim was to devise more meaningful measures that can actually inform museum and gallery policy and programming. But while we have based these on new models of visitor understanding, this is no academic theory. We've devised practical methodologies and tools that measure things previously thought un-measurable. And we quote real visitor data and sector benchmarks for indicators such as depth of engagement and meaning making.

We would like to begin a debate about how we measure the impact and value of museums and galleries. We offer this report as a starting point for that debate.

Download the report to read more

Resource type: Guide/tools | Published: 2013