How to demonstrate and measure the value and impact of museums and galleries
This keynote from the Museums and Galleries Marketing Day: 2010 ask the question, If our museums and galleries are to be seen as more than just a ‘good day out’, then what do we as marketers need to do to convince people outside of our venues and outside of our sector that we are a force to be reckoned with? The case studies look at partnership work in Manchester and the North West that aimed to prove the potential impact that culture can make on the economic, social, health and well-being of its communities and citizens.
Our profession has endlessly debated the point of museums and galleries. Is our intrinsic existence sufficient? Or must we have some wider social or economic relevance? We often set up the tired old ‘art for art’s sake’ argument in opposition to a more instrumental approach – using museums to improve educational attainment, make an impact on residents’ health and wellbeing or encourage economic vibrancy. We ask whether we are underselling or even demeaning ourselves to deliver agendas better delivered by others? Why can’t we just be left alone to do what we do best?
The intrinsic value of a museum, which lies in the complex process of how individual visitors enjoy, learn from and contribute to the museum, is our strongest instrumental weapon. This is the essence of the museum experience, which is hard to measure or describe, but everyone knows what it feels like.
This is what makes museums powerful, stimulating and unsettling. Instrumentalism just means harnessing that power for the greater good; driving home the relevance of the museum experience to people’s lives and the sustainability and viability of their communities. The most successful, impactful, relevant cultural organisations are those that see the bigger picture and have the generosity of spirit and the culture of partnership to ensure they are part of the society they sit within.