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 Post subject: Museums search for solutions to reverse attendance slide
PostPosted: Tue Jan 16, 2018 7:22 am 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 1:51 pm
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Location: Somewhere north of Prescott, AZ on the Santa Fe "Peavine"
http://www.baltimoresun.com/entertainme ... story.html

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Studies conducted over the past two decades have found little correlation between attendance and admission rates.

“Lowering the price of admission or eliminating it doesn’t mean that suddenly, more people will want to come to your museum,” said Zannie Voss, director of the National Center for Arts Research in Texas. “If your museum goes free so that people of a lower economic status can participate, you still have to get them through the door the first time. And you have to give them such an engaging experience they’ll want to come back.”

If museums’ only goal were to wow ever-larger crowds, every administrator in America would know exactly how to achieve it. But the one seemingly sure-fire solution might cause more problems than it solves.

Behold the blockbuster.


Is Thomas the Tank Engine our "blockbuster"? Or big expo events?


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 Post subject: Re: Museums search for solutions to reverse attendance slide
PostPosted: Tue Jan 16, 2018 8:46 am 

Joined: Wed Jun 29, 2016 11:58 am
Posts: 34
Another hint in that article is that the "experience" is very important.

Brian


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 Post subject: Re: Museums search for solutions to reverse attendance slide
PostPosted: Tue Jan 16, 2018 9:44 am 

Joined: Fri Mar 26, 2010 11:43 am
Posts: 555
In MY experience, we're generally succeeding on the "hands-on" and the "see stuff do things" aspect and pretty much failing on everything else. It seems to me that there was a push for the 'static display' behind rope to preserve the 'historical fabric' a few years back, that was an utter failure. I saw it as a complete injustice to the artifact, its history, and fucntion. One good example was a historical farm museum. They had tons of harvesting and processing equipment, all rusty and sad. I pointed out that this didn't do the artifacts justice-there is no smell of cotton seed, these rusty parts were scoured by use and shiny as chrome! They have artifacts horded outside, some have went to scrap after just sitting in the back lot for 25 years. Some of them were delivered in working condition, having been kept in a barn on the family farm for 50 or more years.

Also, if your excuse for bad attendance and volunteering begins with "Kids these days just don't", you've pretty much lost the fight.


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 Post subject: Re: Museums search for solutions to reverse attendance slide
PostPosted: Tue Jan 16, 2018 11:34 am 

Joined: Wed Jan 20, 2016 1:15 pm
Posts: 174
Is the typical railroad museum / tourist railroad having an attendance slide?


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 Post subject: Re: Museums search for solutions to reverse attendance slide
PostPosted: Tue Jan 16, 2018 11:42 am 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 7:19 am
Posts: 5505
Location: southeastern USA
Hard to say - the typical museum is making some effort to attract new visitors through special event programming. It might be interesting to track attendance figures for the "ordinary open day" over several years without including events, assuming that programming hasn't changed much in that time.

Digital provides opportunities and interesting ways to shoot ourselves by mistake. I think we must market digitally, but to use digital representations of reality in out interpretation - be careful. What we have that sets us apart is the experience of actually living in the past, not just looking at it's digital representation while living in the present. So, context - REAL context - becomes important.

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Corollary: "He who does is doomed to watch those who don't repeat it anyway."


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 Post subject: Re: Museums search for solutions to reverse attendance slide
PostPosted: Tue Jan 16, 2018 11:46 am 

Joined: Sun Jan 14, 2018 6:08 am
Posts: 60
Alexander D. Mitchell IV wrote:
Is Thomas the Tank Engine our "blockbuster"? Or big expo events?


"Short answer" is yes, and yes.

Long answer is it's actually diversity of events which tend to win out and help attendance. Railroading/railways have more niches they can capture first before considering other ideas, Thomas, Santa/Polar Express and expos being the first big steps which work great as money earners and attendance boosters.

Certainly here in the UK where we have a huge heritage market. My local (absolutely tiny) museum is dedicated to the industrial history of my town, but hosts various talks, local poetry readings, events for children and even uses its open square in the building complex to host two small markets, a farmers one and a crafts one during the summer months as well as have-a-go pottery classes.

All alongside a large and active volunteer base which supports it and helps raise awareness by attending various local events with a stand and stall. (Including the local, regular town market).

Small touches work as well. The cafe inside the museum is an attraction in and of itself, it's run by a local company with hand baked goods on offer alongside the standard fare of coffees and paninis. This makes the cafe as much of a money earning attraction as the museum is. I ate in a "big and famous" museum in London once and regret it bitterly. They just didn't care and it cut my visit short as I needed to get some air after the culinary experience.

The biggest piece of advice is to begin working in concert with other groups and organisations you'd think on paper are odd bedfellows. Classic car owners groups, poetry groups even art museums finding works of art to loan out to organizations in the name of public art and working together to find things which might work and might not.

Reading the article it seems the "trend bucking" American Visionary Art Museum is doing just that with just a simple glance through their events calendar showing a nice variety of art themed events which allow people to get involved. Simple drop in events aiming at popular ideas and events which actually get people involved with the idea of art. They also have a nice restaurant which draws people in for lunch who them might stay and browse a few exhibits before going on their way.

As hilariously stupid as it sounds... Bob Ross evenings in Art Museums and then displaying the end result seem like a nice "gimmick" to get more people in.

One recent gimmick I remember from the WHR's "Big and Small" event was a shunting experience, for just $7 you got to jump aboard one of the Hunslet Quarry engines and shunt a few wagons back and forth in a small yard, you were on the footplate with two others (just like on a driving experience) and visibility was perfectly fine with a rope stopping anyone straying too close to the active tracks. It was so well patronised that the blocs of time they'd reserved for people had been booked by 11am!

Quote:
Also, if your excuse for bad attendance and volunteering begins with "Kids these days just don't", you've pretty much lost the fight.


There's really no "you've pretty much lost" about it, you have outright capitulated because "kids these days" is the go to excuse of people who don't know how to sell volunteering to younger people in this day and age.

Being able to fill out a more well rounded resume is vital for many 'kids' these days. Volunteering offers a wealth of opportunities to both the kids and their potential future employers. It helps develop actual workplace skills, team working skills, punctuality, and shows a willingness to work, even if it's just for a warm, fuzzy feeling.

On top of all that, provided the volunteer is shown to be good at what they do, they should be able to ask for a character/work reference from the voluntary organisation, sometimes a reference on their character is as valuable as actual work experience.

Groups struggling with that should sell the organisation on that basis, you might get a high turnover of volunteers but you'll also get a core who will take to it like a duck to water and stick around because they actually enjoy themselves.


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 Post subject: Re: Museums search for solutions to reverse attendance slide
PostPosted: Tue Jan 16, 2018 12:45 pm 

Joined: Wed Jan 20, 2016 1:15 pm
Posts: 174
I do think sometimes museums of all types try to think too outside the box instead of thinking of the obvious.

When was the last time your museum opened up a new temporary exhibit?

When was the last time your museum opened up a new permanent exhibit?

What if.... instead of spending x amount of dollars on new programs and special events... that x amount of dollars was spent yearly on new exhibits which would then further enhance the experience for every day visitors for years to come.


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 Post subject: Re: Museums search for solutions to reverse attendance slide
PostPosted: Tue Jan 16, 2018 2:09 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 8:28 am
Posts: 2528
Location: Salt Lake City, Utah
Crescent-Zephyr wrote:
I do think sometimes museums of all types try to think too outside the box instead of thinking of the obvious.

When was the last time your museum opened up a new temporary exhibit?

When was the last time your museum opened up a new permanent exhibit?

What if.... instead of spending x amount of dollars on new programs and special events... that x amount of dollars was spent yearly on new exhibits which would then further enhance the experience for every day visitors for years to come.


Do you have numbers to back up your argument?

Truth be told, you could have the best exhibits in the world, or the best special events in the world, and if you aren't properly marketing, you are going to fail.

What's your organization's marketing plan?

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 Post subject: Re: Museums search for solutions to reverse attendance slide
PostPosted: Tue Jan 16, 2018 3:40 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 12:15 am
Posts: 499
Dave wrote:
Hard to say - the typical museum is making some effort to attract new visitors through special event programming. It might be interesting to track attendance figures for the "ordinary open day" over several years without including events, assuming that programming hasn't changed much in that time.


Not sure if that would work as the more special events you have the lower your regular admissions are going to be because people are going to see the museum along with the event. That is unless the event is off site, or only utilizes a portion of the museum. You will get those that want a closer/calmer look, and those that bring friends down afterwards.

Rich C.


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 Post subject: Re: Museums search for solutions to reverse attendance slide
PostPosted: Tue Jan 16, 2018 3:48 pm 

Joined: Wed Jan 20, 2016 1:15 pm
Posts: 174
wilkinsd wrote:
Crescent-Zephyr wrote:
I do think sometimes museums of all types try to think too outside the box instead of thinking of the obvious.

When was the last time your museum opened up a new temporary exhibit?

When was the last time your museum opened up a new permanent exhibit?

What if.... instead of spending x amount of dollars on new programs and special events... that x amount of dollars was spent yearly on new exhibits which would then further enhance the experience for every day visitors for years to come.


Do you have numbers to back up your argument?

Truth be told, you could have the best exhibits in the world, or the best special events in the world, and if you aren't properly marketing, you are going to fail.

What's your organization's marketing plan?


I wasn't aware I needed to have numbers in order to share my thoughts? But no I do not.

Obviously marketing should not be overlooked and in my idea, you would spend your marketing money on your new exhibit rather than marketing a special event.

Of course, one could also argue that it would be best to invest in both new exhibits AND special events. And that's a good point as well.


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 Post subject: Re: Museums search for solutions to reverse attendance slide
PostPosted: Tue Jan 16, 2018 3:54 pm 

Joined: Thu Jun 17, 2010 9:31 am
Posts: 495
I don't have any numbers to back up my claim, but SNHS definitely seemed to see a steady surge in visitors after the admission fee was dropped in 2017. Maybe someone in know can chime in?


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 Post subject: Re: Museums search for solutions to reverse attendance slide
PostPosted: Tue Jan 16, 2018 4:23 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 7:19 am
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Location: southeastern USA
crij wrote:
Dave wrote:
Hard to say - the typical museum is making some effort to attract new visitors through special event programming. It might be interesting to track attendance figures for the "ordinary open day" over several years without including events, assuming that programming hasn't changed much in that time.


Not sure if that would work as the more special events you have the lower your regular admissions are going to be because people are going to see the museum along with the event. That is unless the event is off site, or only utilizes a portion of the museum. You will get those that want a closer/calmer look, and those that bring friends down afterwards.

Rich C.


Sorry Rich - one would have to average the daily rather than annual cumulative number to make sense of it. Let's say the organization has run a train ride and short tour of a permanent exhibit that hasn't essentially changed for 30 years. if you were selling 200 admissions / seats per day in 1990 and are now selling 100...... you see the comparison.

_________________
Santayana: "He who does not remember the past is condemned to repeat it."
Corollary: "He who does is doomed to watch those who don't repeat it anyway."


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 Post subject: Re: Museums search for solutions to reverse attendance slide
PostPosted: Tue Jan 16, 2018 7:41 pm 

Joined: Sun May 18, 2014 8:56 pm
Posts: 91
Location: New York
JDParkes wrote:
Being able to fill out a more well rounded resume is vital for many 'kids' these days. Volunteering offers a wealth of opportunities to both the kids and their potential future employers. It helps develop actual workplace skills, team working skills, punctuality, and shows a willingness to work, even if it's just for a warm, fuzzy feeling.

On top of all that, provided the volunteer is shown to be good at what they do, they should be able to ask for a character/work reference from the voluntary organisation, sometimes a reference on their character is as valuable as actual work experience.


I can attest to this from personal experience.

To help round out my resume, I listed volunteer experience producing digital media for the local historical society. This volunteer work not only allowed me to indulge in two personal passions, but also put me ahead of the competition when interviewing for my current marketing position. The volunteer efforts were added to the resume, cover letter, and the president of the society was used as one of my main character references.

I continue to produce video for the organization to this day, and I'm forever grateful for the opportunity they provided me. To paraphrase James Jerome Hill, "If you prosper, we prosper".


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 Post subject: Re: Museums search for solutions to reverse attendance slide
PostPosted: Tue Jan 16, 2018 8:35 pm 

Joined: Thu Oct 21, 2004 7:24 am
Posts: 504
Location: Canada
I wonder how many of you caught this gem, McDonald's saying their burgers are a better way to spend $5.00 than to go to a museum

http://www.foxnews.com/food-drink/2018/ ... useum.html


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 Post subject: Re: Museums search for solutions to reverse attendance slide
PostPosted: Tue Jan 16, 2018 11:29 pm 

Joined: Fri Dec 09, 2011 11:41 pm
Posts: 1
An interesting and useful discussion. The industry is notoriously lacking at helpful, systematic and on-going market research. Many of the fine points made here would benefit from correctly-gathered data to guide future decisions.


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